Chalmers wins 3rd place at Formula Student Germany

Tears of joy and tears of sorrow. Every phrase that seems cliché is actually overwhelmingly understated at Formula Student. 75 of the top Formula Student (FS) teams convened at the prestigious Formula Student Germany last week, a 6-day competition loaded with rivalry, drama, and respect. By working hard, Chalmers Formula Student won an emotional 3rd place.

Formula Student is the largest student engineering competition in the world, attracting teams from all around the world. Teams build a formula style car to compete in both static events (Design, Cost, and Business) and dynamic events (Skidpad, Acceleration, Autocross, and Endurance/Fuel Efficiency). Multiple events take place around the world, but the one that attracts all the top teams is Formula Student Germany.

New Chalmers team every year
Most teams have a strategy of going out to win – in most teams, project engineers stay in the team for multiple years, gaining knowledge for next year. At Chalmers Formula Student (CFS), there is a slightly different approach – CFS focuses on the education experience it provides to its project engineers, and therefore it has a completely new team every year. This means that members in the team have no competition experience or knowledge from previous years. Therefore, winning 3rd place required so much work and dedication - winning 3rd place was an enormous accomplishment. The team exploded in such celebration at the award ceremony that the commentator even said, “They make winning 1st place look like nothing special.”

The judges check all cars
The week started off with scrutineering, where the judges check all the cars to make sure they meet competition rules and safety requirements. Scrutineering is divided into technical inspection, tilt test, noise test, and brake test. Chalmers Formula Student passed quickly, which meant they had time to spend preparing for dynamic events by getting some practice on the track.

The Chalmers experience 2014 - day by day
Lets take a look back at what happened at the competition…

Friday:
Just a few weeks ago we were competing at Formula Student UK. We did not finish because of problems in endurance, which cost us a lot of points. We managed to get through that and continue to be motivated for FSG, and so now it all starts again. Today is the day of the first competition events, the static ones: Design, Cost, and Business. In the Design Event the team is questioned about every design choice made in the car. In cost, the team is questioned on manufacturing methods used in the car, if they were to be mass-produced. The business event is a business pitch made to the judges, to sell the company and show how making a car like this can be profitable. The static events get engineers to connect concepts, like performance, to real-life parameters, such as cost.

This is also the day of the first dynamic event, skidpad. In Germany, it’s actually a wet skidpad – the officials are spraying water on the course to test handling in the wet. Overall, the team receives very positive feedback from the statics judges and has a positive outlook on the competition.

Watch video updates
You can see our video updates from the days to see how our moods fluctuated during the competition:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucjbuyPSRP4

Saturday:

Now its time for the first fully dynamic day. There is no specific order of running today, so we need to have a good strategy. We decide to be the first to run in acceleration, and put in a good time. Then, the drivers continue testing in the testing area. Next, the second acceleration driver comes back to do his acceleration test. Unfortunately, we have problems with the fuel and we are not able to improve upon our first time.

In the afternoon is autocross, one lap of a track that the drivers have never driven before. We place the 3rd fastest combustion time!

Today, we also receive results on how statics went, and the rankings are not as high as we thought. In combination with our unfortunate acceleration problem and not the best skidpad performance, the team is feeling down and people begin feeling that getting on the podium is just a dream.

Watch video update

Sunday:
Today, the last day of dynamics – one event, endurance, where reliability and fuel efficiency are tested. The order of endurance is decided by the times from autocross, in order from slowest to fastest (the fastest teams run at the end). Although combustion cars and electric cars do not compete against each other in Germany, they still drive together in endurance – therefore, we are not the 3rd to last team, but 7th to last. The team goes to the practice area to setup for the last time, and then waits at the Hockenheim Formula 1 pits for our turn at endurance. We head out to the track. The team is ready, waiting in different areas to watch our turn. We see other teams driving, some with problems that make them unable to finish endurance after a year’s hard work. Teams literally crying from the emotion, and we feel their full pain and almost start crying ourselves. Formula Student is a community where everyone understands each others pain and the work everyone went through, working more than 16 hours per day for a whole year with no breaks – it’s a tough moment for those who do not finish endurance.

400 out of 1000
Endurance is worth 400 out of 1000 competition points, making it the most important event. We will be driving against the 6 to 10 best teams. We get out on the track, and because we’ve had problems with running low on fuel, we decide to run in Eco-mode to conserve fuel. Overall, this could give us a better overall time because the car slows down drastically when it begins running low on fuel, and we will get more points for fuel efficiency.

Time for driver change
9 out of 18 laps have passed, and it is time for driver change. The first driver did a great job saving fuel and putting in solid lap times. The second driver gets out on the track. Suddenly, one of the other cars out on the track has problems, and a yellow flag forces our driver to drive slower. It turns out that the car ran out of fuel in its 16th lap, one and a half before finishing endurance. Soon after, one more car has problems closer to the finish line, forcing the car behind it to slow. The first car had a problem that made it DNF (did not finish). The car that had to slow down behind tries to go around, but then runs out of fuel itself, 200 meters before the finish line. DNFs all across the scoreboard. Before, two teams had wheels come off. The whole Chalmers Formula Student team is standing, watching the drama, hoping that we finish. Then you hear one of the commentators: “Chalmers, one of the last teams of endurance, let’s hope they can get to the end… they got the last lap for them, just coming through the corner of broken dreams… as they come around here towards the horseshoe bend, augh! trying to struggle to keep that back end from going out, I’d say Freddy’s in there enjoying himself as they hammer down the last straight into the final corner, and they take the checkered flag.” We did it! We finished endurance!

A video of our last two laps of endurance is available here

The top teams also have to go through post-scrutineering to make sure that the cars weren’t modified for endurance, and we pass. We’re all elated. We go back to the pits to pack the car and all our tools, and then we go back to camp and shower and prepare for the awards ceremony. The only scores posted by officials are those from the static events, skidpad, and acceleration. Therefore, we really don’t know what to expect at the awards ceremony.

Finishing endurance
We are all happy about finishing endurance, and we take our seats to see other teams get awards for individual events. Then comes time for combustion overall winners, 3rd place. “The 3rd place winner is a car that has not yet been up here. It’s a car from the north of here-” “It’s not even a German car” “No it isn’t,…it’s car number 4, Chalmers!”

You can imagine the chaos that ensued: Working at least 16 hrs per day every day for a whole year, countless obstacles, and a lack of certainty of any results. Stressful moments, happy moments, and ups and downs of competitions.

WE WON 3rd PLACE AT FSG!
It may seem as if we built a car, but what we actually built was so much more - a strong team, lasting friendships, and unforgettable memories.
Our goal for the year, the idea that motivated us through everything, was to reach podium at FSG - and, as mindblowing as it is to say it, we did it... we won 3rd place at FSG. WE WON 3rd PLACE AT FSG!

We wish we could share this feeling of hard work paying off, of reaching a goal that was so hard to reach, and making it a reality - the mix of satisfaction and disbelief that permeates through the team is indescribable. We would always try to explain how much work this was, but it’s impossible - and this feeling of elation is even more powerful and still harder to describe.

Extremely happy
As difficult as it all was, everyone is extremely happy about being a part of Chalmers Formula Student. An outstanding educational experience with a practical side that requires immense teamwork, drive, and dedication. Chalmers Formula Student would like to thank all of its supporters, and the understanding of close ones – because a large part of our lives has stopped to do this project.

You can be a part of the team
Coming up soon is the interview process for next year’s team – if you’re at Chalmers, we definitely recommend it! It may be scary at first, but it's worth it. Look out for more information at our website and posters around campus.

Text: Tomek Stec
Photo: Tomek Stec, Klaus Scheuplein och Ole Kroeger, Formula Student Germany (FSG)

You can find more information in the following places:
Facebook page: Facebook.com/chalmersformulastudent
Chalmers Formula Student TV: youtube.com/chalmersfs
Twitter: twitter.com/chalmersformula
Website: chalmersformulastudent.se







Published: Fri 15 Aug 2014. Modified: Mon 18 Aug 2014