Started in 1980 at the University of Texas at Austin the Formula Student (or Formula SAE) is now an international student design competition with a significant base in Germany. The goal for the students is to design, build and race a formula car, as well as to present the design to industry specialists, thinking of mass production and selling the car to an imaginary investor.
It provides a unique way for student engineers to connect the theory gathered at school with real-world practice, meet with potential employers, and on top of that experience something exciting.
Formula Student competitions held in Europe mostly follow a model set by Formula Student Germany. Teams compete in 3 static and possibly up to 8 dynamic disciplines. According to specific European competitions, teams have the option to participate in the integrated or stand-alone category with autonomous functions. Formula Student Czech has an Optional DV cup, which means that autonomous functions are fully voluntary.
|Discipline||EV & CV||Optional DV Cup (ODVc)|
|Statics||Business Plan||75 points||—|
|Cost and Manufacturing||100 points||—|
|Engineering Design||150 points||300 points|
|Dynamics||Acceleration||75 points||75 points|
|Skid Pad||75 points||75 points|
|Autocross||100 points||100 points|
|Efficiency||100 points||75 points|
|Overall||1000 points||1000 points|
The word “Formula” is mainly connected to pure racing. The Formula Student competition, however, is designed to help the students gain a wide professional overlap by challenging them to develop their presentation skills or to think about how to scale their design.
Formula Student is mainly an engineering competition so a great emphasis is placed on the assessment of the car’s design. Each team hands in an eight-page report covering technical aspects of their car. Driverless cars get another five pages describing the self-driving system. These documents are reviewed by a panel of judges to assess the design and to direct the following discussion. Judges then visit each team in their pit, find their counterpart team members and discuss various design aspects. They go from intentions through decisions to end results. The top5 teams are then invited to another round of discussion with judges to provide them with yet another angle
Cost is an important aspect of the design of any product, especially in the automotive industry. Teams must provide a detailed report in written form covering the cost of all components used in the car as well as manufacturing processes step by step. Furthermore the document is then questioned by the judges and teams have to explain the selected topic in detail.
Each product should find its customer. Even a Formula Student car has to be properly presented as a product and teams are trying to sell it to imaginary investors together with various services they provide with the car. Each team has 10 minutes for their presentation followed by five another minutes of discussion with the judges. Every aspect counts, no bounds to the imagination.
Dynamic manual disciplines
From the very first day of each competition, the teams rush to prepare everything to pass the technical inspection which allows them to race the car on the track in several disciplines. The Acceleration, Skid Pad, and Autocross disciplines are open for two drivers from each car, each driver has two attempts. From all four the best attempt will be scored. Knocking or moving a cone means a penalty, and an off-course means an even higher penalty or DNF.
The single most frequent question a team member will get is: How fast does it go and how quickly does it accelerate? Well, this discipline is about to find out. To simplify the setup a time is measured on a 75-meter-long track with a fixed start. Obviously, you put in the smallest driver you have and go with full throttle. The best teams can make it under 3 seconds while reaching over 120kmph at the exit.
The next thing to test is the maximal lateral acceleration the car is capable of. The track of Skid Pad is a figure of 8 with a start and exit in the middle. The car goes two laps right and two laps left, in each case, the second lap is measured. A fast lap time is a combination of good tires, a low center of mass, an effective aero-packet, and a concentrated driver.
This is a proper track the car has been designed for. It is one kilometer long series of straights, curves, slaloms, and chicanes. The car needs to be agile yet precise at the same time. Every single aspect of the design now saves or adds valuable milliseconds. The quality of the driver makes a huge impact too, however. Autonomous cars have the track shortened to 500 meters. The resulting ranking of Autocross is used to define the starting positions for the Endurance event.
If your car still hasn’t fallen apart, there is an ultimate discipline waiting to test its reliability. The track is mostly based on the autocross track, but this time the cars go many laps to reach a total distance of 22 kilometers. There is only one attempt for each team and the drivers change after 11 kilometers.