Senior members at UGRacing spoke to The Glasgow Guardian about the aspirations for the team.
For many sports across the university, the season has drawn to a close: boots have been hung up, shirts washed and folded away and the celebrations have well and truly begun. However, for UGRacing, the University of Glasgow’s Formula Student (a UK student engineering competition that involves producing a small-style formula-style racing car) team, engines are still very much heating up as they prepare to present this year’s showpiece.
This summer will mark the end of creating combustion engine cars as the team continues to develop the design and manufacturing of an electric vehicle for competition. The petrol-powered car, which has been the main focus of the team, will be entered into the 2022 Formula Student Competition at Silverstone in June before UGRacing discards the combustion engine for an electrical and more sustainable alternative. For the team, the competition and having the opportunity to drive the vehicle after all the hard work and long hours act as a good motivator to battle through even the toughest of barriers and obstacles. Despite being designed pre-pandemic and built post, Head Engineer Callum Wilson commented: “We ended up producing a car that was definitely fast enough to win last year, and very, very nearly did, we just lacked the reliability.” With around 40% of the engineering team concentrating on the combustion vehicle, there is the confidence that their experience in constructing these combined with little improvements from previous years will allow them to boost last year’s performance and end on a high.
The second entry for the team this year is a driverless vehicle, provided by the event organisers and programmed in collaboration with the School of Computer Science and the School of Engineering. Alongside the development of the electrical vehicle, the driverless project is becoming a serious ambition for UGRacing with the hope of creating and engineering a driverless vehicle from scratch in the next three or four years.
Head of Electric Vehicle (EV) Development Marvin Menden highlighted UGRacing’s excitement around the development of these new vehicles and the challenges that have had to be overcome from adapting the working space and equipment to match high voltage safety regulations within the university to finding new manufacturing sponsors: “Things like that are completely new for us. We’re kind of trying to get that sorted to build a base that’s really solid for the next years so that we can get into that rhythm that we’re in with the combustion cars with the electric ones as well.” For the team, it’s all about the progress and being adaptable by having the patience to resolve any issues and lay down a strong foundation that can be built upon.
From the outside, it may appear that UGRacing is a team reserved for car junkies and petrol heads but the Formula Student competition goes beyond computer designs, big engineering projects and racing cars on the track. In a series of static, off-track events, the Formula Student teams are also expected to justify their business decisions. Team Principal Fraser Cowie emphasised that only around two-thirds of the 150 members are technically orientated: “We’ve got accountants, lawyers, people studying humanities subjects, all working to support us in our operations. There are sub-teams, such as HR, marketing and we’ve got a partnerships team as well, because we source the majority of our funding from external partners, it’s not just university-funded. It’s a real team effort: all 150 people pulling their weight.”
Whilst this summer’s success and the development of the EV still remain in the balance, Fraser, Callum and Marvin all reflect on what UGRacing has achieved during their time at university and encourage more students to get involved. Everyone is welcome to join and everyone has a part to play in the project. Cowie said: “I think it’s an excellent experience for the world of work or anywhere where you go and work as a team. Being part of UGR gives you the experience of working with a diverse group of people because it’s not just a group of engineers. You learn how to react to almost every challenge you could face when working as a part of a team and you can apply that almost anywhere.”
UGRacing comes together, in much the same way as their cars – lots of different pieces melding as one to create an outstanding final result. The team is so much more than the sum of all its parts and it’s clear that there is real excitement around their successes so far and ambitious plans for the future. To find out more about the UGRacing project, visit the website or find them on Facebook.