Finn – Eco Racing in Australia

The Cambridge University Eco Racing internship began at the start of the summer, soon after term had ended.

By this point, manufacture of the car had already begun, with the first parts being made during the previous terms that year –  I made the first small components on the student lathes in the department in November before later taking part in the manufacture of the carbon fibre components of the car over the Christmas and Easter holidays, working with one of our main sponsors Formaplex. This included making all of the bodywork panels as well as the carbon fibre chassis tub.

However, the majority of the manufacture took place over the summer. The first few weeks of the summer internship I spent down at Formaplex, finishing the final carbon fibre parts for the car. This was an extremely valuable experience, giving me a detailed insight into the manufacturing process of high performance composites. For the remainder of the internship however, I returned to Cambridge to work on assembling the car with the rest of the team, during which I stayed in college accommodation and worked in the Oatlety Garage in the Engineering department. Emmanuel College kindly covered half of the cost of my accommodation for the period I spent in Cambridge due to my internship being unpaid.

The work in Cambridge involved many different aspects – including having parts which had been previously designed by the team machined by external companies or with the help of the technicians in the Engineering Department. These parts, along with the carbon fibre parts from Formaplex and any other components which we had built, assembled or purchased ourselves, were then assembled into the final car. One of my main roles was to fit the carbon fibre doors and their associated closure mechanisms, which were provided by our sponsor 8D closures who I worked with in order to fit them as best I could.

The manufacture and assembly of the car took up the majority of the internship, and towards the end of the summer, with an almost finished car, we held a launch event at the Science Museum in London for all of our sponsors and parents to come and see what we had been working so hard on. In the time left before we had to ship the car to Australia for the competition, we worked long hours in the garage in the Engineering Department in order to do our best to get the car as close to being finished as we could. However, with work still to do on the car so that we could meet the strict regulations of the competition, we had to send the car on its trip so that it would arrive in time.

As a team we then flew out to Australia to meet the car. We were there for a total of around 3 weeks, and the trip itself was very expensive, so in order to help cover the cost I applied to Emmanuel for some funding. I was relieved to receive a grant of £500 which really helped pay for the trip. We took Helia up to Darwin, where we met all the other teams and for a week or so worked on the car in a small garage by the side of the Hidden Valley Race Track. In this time we just about managed to get the car to meet the standards set by the requirements of the competition’s detailed scrutineering process. Some of the last things to be finalised on the car were the electrical sub-systems such as the driver interface and lights.

It was a huge relief when we then passed both the static and dynamic scrutineering stages, allowing us to compete in the challenge. There were however still more unforeseen issues which we had to overcome, and the start of the race was definitely stressful. The race took place over 6 intense days, with a couple of days afterwards for the practicality judging and prize ceremony. Despite many issues, we managed to achieve a respectable position of 7th overall in the race, with only 3 cars in our class finishing the whole 3,000km. Furthermore, in the practicality judging which took place after the race period we came 3rd in our class, which we were all very happy with as we had aimed to make a decidedly practical car.

I then came back to the UK, going back to term a little bit late due to the dates of the competition. However, despite this alongside the various stresses involved in the project, it was an amazing experience which I would definitely recommend to those looking for a valuable, practical engineering experience. I have now decided to continue with the project this year, taking up the role of Deputy Programme Director and working on improving the reliability and performance of the car for future competitions.

I think that I would have found it very difficult to take part in as much of the project as I did without the help of the grants given by Emmanuel College – both for my summer accommodation and for the trip to Australia itself. So I am really thankful to the College for allowing me to take part in such a great project to this extent, and I can only hope that in the future the College will continue to allow future students to do the same.