Hi, my name is Gabby and I am a second year undergraduate on the Materials Science with Nuclear Engineering degree programme at Sheffield University. The course is what initially attracted me to Sheffield and it has quickly become apparent that this is also a great place to be a student.
At the beginning of first year I was given the opportunity to apply for the university’s Formula Student team, Sheffield Formula Racing (SFR). The team represents The University of Sheffield in The Institute of Mechanical Engineers’ (IMechE) annual Formula Student competition. After attending several workshops, writing two reports and completing a group project I was lucky enough to be accepted onto the team along with 13 other first years out of around 80 initial applicants.
Each year SFR designs, builds and races a single seat formula style race car to take to an international competition at Silverstone, which is entered by over 100 universities from around the globe. During the project we gain valuable teamwork, networking, machining, design, business and financial planning skills. The competition is also an exceptionally good way of demonstrating practical engineering ability.
The environment created by the team has been a huge learning curve and over the past year I have developed many new skills and managed to overcome fears. Who knew I’d learn to become good at professional phone calls securing a discount on high quality materials?
The Formula Student website explains the competition as “Europe’s most established educational motorsport competition…Backed by industry and high profile engineers such as our Patron Ross Brawn OBE, the competition aims to inspire and develop enterprising and innovative young engineers.”
Students that have taken part in Formula Student become incredibly attractive to future employers upon graduation, or even for short placements during summer vacation. Further to this the team itself creates industry contacts as we have to secure funding through sponsorship ourselves. Included in many of these contracts are factory tours, technical meetings and workshops. One of which I was recently able to take part in to develop skills which will be used later this semester for the manufacture of this year’s bodywork. These may also prove to be very useful to me as my career progresses in later life.
The SFR team is split into five main sub-teams to which each member is assigned based on personal choice before the start of each year. The teams are; Chassis and Vehicle Dynamics, Drivetrain, Engine and Electronics, and Ergonomics and Bodywork (of which I am a member). Different teams around the country will vary their structure according to how they feel the project is best approached. The SFR system stems from members joining in first year only and staying with the team through to graduation three or four years later. By doing this the knowledge within the team has a greater chance of growing year on year compared to those run with just masters students completing final year projects. The application system is also fairly tough in comparison with some teams, this is not necessarily to find the best students but the most committed and enthusiastic to learn.
Formula Student is difficult at times and a huge time commitment, but very rewarding. Through the team I have met incredible, like-minded people and so formed some of the best friendships I’ve ever had. By the time competition in July rolls around there is a real sense of camaraderie, and not just within our team but between all of those at Silverstone with us.
Joining SFR is one of the best decisions I’ve made at uni and couldn’t recommend it highly enough. Similarly, studying materials at Sheffield is one of the greatest decisions I’ve made in life.