Project Description

University: Swinburne University of Technology
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Fuel type: Electric
Number of Students: 35
Engineering disciplines or other degrees: Mechanical-Electrical Engineering, Full commerce/ business team

Team leader Pat spoke with us about Swinburne’s move to an electric race car (the petrol project was dropped in 2010), the challenges in starting from scratch and the benefits of having a full commerce team to support the engineering students!

How did you improve on the university’s entry last year? What makes this car unique?
“We have a brand new team with a brand new car. The car has been built from the ground up – the only thing from the previous race car is the brake callipers and steering wheel. There weren’t many carryover members [from the previous year] so I stepped up and decided to do it [lead the team].”

What is an example of how you improved teamwork/ team morale?
“The team started in dribs and drabs, 3 guys who knew each other, 4 guys who knew each other, by now we’re all pretty good mates. I don’t think there’s anyone in the team that doesn’t really get along.”

At any point this year did you fear not making it to competition with a working car?
“Last week we broke an upright; by last week I mean we broke it on Tuesday night [three days before the competition]! We also broke a brake disc the day before and had to start digging pretty deep with the cash account to pay for the parts to get made, it wasn’t cheap but we had to get it done.”

What are the benefits of having a business/ commerce students in the team?
“We actually have a full commerce team that takes care of all our commerce stuff, I’m not sure if we are the first to do that but we are definitely one of the first. Just by putting those guys on this year, sponsorship has gone from 23 to 56-57 sponsors at last count. We kind of picked them, they are all HD students! For the business students, managing the team is their equivalent of final year project.”

What is your final year project and how much time have you dedicated to it? How have you spent the rest of your time in this project?
“My thesis had a fair bit to do with SAE, I was able to link the two a fair bit. My project probably did suffer from managing the team but my grades haven’t appeared to suffer dramatically, although I think I could have done better if I wasn’t managing the team. What I didn’t get out of doing well in terms of grades I definitely learnt management skills which I think is more important.”

What was the first task given to you when you joined the team? Why did you decide to commit to the team?
“It wasn’t so mundane; I was working on calculating the centre-of-mass of the previous car – a fair bit of calculations!”