At AB Dynamics, we take great pride in supporting young engineers and nurturing their growth. Today, we turn our spotlight on Gowshikan Santhikumaran, a member of our Track Test team who has has been involved in the world of Formula Student since 2017. In this latest blog post, Gowshi discusses his Formula Student experiences and the many ways in which the competition has helped to shape his engineering career.
Formula Student is a renowned engineering competition organised by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE). By requiring participants to design, build, and race formula-style cars, it offers aspiring young engineers a unique platform to showcase their skills and knowledge.
Could you share your experience participating in the Formula Student event? What motivated you to take part in this competition?
For two years, I was the Head of Chassis and Chief Design Engineer for the Queen Mary University, Formula Student team. I now continue to take part annually in the competition as a Design Judge.
My desire to join the team was to experience real-world engineering applications in a fast-paced environment. Formula Student was a great steppingstone and gave me so many wonderful opportunities. The event isn’t just an engineering competition but also a business challenge. It gave me a great insight in the everyday problems a typical engineer would face and how to overcome them. As well as building upon the key engineering principles I was learning at university, I also learnt how to navigate budget constraints and present to key stakeholders. These are just a few of the tasks that prepared me for my future career in engineering.
Furthermore, Formula Student allowed me to join up with a wide variety of like-minded individuals. The bonds I formed during the competition are ones that I will hold on to for many years.
How did Formula Student contribute to your growth as an engineer?
Formula Student helped me to think outside the box when it came to solving problems. Being in such a fast-paced environment, problems can quickly arise halting the overall progress of the project. Quick, palliative solutions were imperative to maintaining momentum and ensuring we kept on schedule. The ability to think on your feet and to take initiative is a key skill every engineer should have, skills that AB Dynamics has allowed me to cultivate further.
What specific challenges did you face during the competition, and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge I faced during the competition was being a founding member of the team. Our university had not produced an actual car and historical data and knowledge was virtually non-existent. As Head of Chassis, I had to educate myself on the basic concept of designing a race car, pooling together information from various verified sources. I remember the textbook “Race Car Designs” by Derek Seward becoming somewhat of a bible for me during my stint. I also had to push myself to learn beyond my course’s syllabus to acquire the technical skills I needed. Within a space of a week, I self-taught myself the ins and outs of Solidworks and began designing the suspension geometry - carrying out analysis and optimisation on the chassis designs. However, I found that the best solution for the knowledge gap was to reach out to other universities. Networking with students and lecturers from universities with established teams helped me to grow my pool of contacts. If I needed help with a specific test, I just simply had to reach out for advice, and vice versa.
Can you highlight any memorable moments or achievements from your time in Formula Student?
My final year was probably the most memorable time on the team, partly because of how chaotic it was! It started with me and the other heads of departments pulling two all-nighters in a row, making sure all our paperwork was in order as well as putting the finishing touches on the car. There was still a lot left to do, as most new teams battle to have a completed car for the event. The drive to Silverstone was a bit of a blur! In the end it was all worth it, despite the numerous challenges we faced, and we won the Best Newcomer Award. The rush of getting up on stage in front of hundreds of people and cheering my heart out was best feeling ever, completely justifying all the time and energy invested in the competition.
What skills and knowledge did you acquire through the competition that have been valuable in your current role at AB Dynamics?
Being able to analyse a strict ruleset and work within tight regulations was a valuable skill gained from the competition and forms the basis of one of my everyday tasks as a senior project engineer. I often deal with NCAP protocols and work towards developing products that meet a strict set of requirements. On top of this, being a department lead on the Formula Student team allowed me to develop my line management and organisational skills; I learnt how to bring the best out of my team.
Lastly, what advice would you give to current Formula Student participants or aspiring young engineers who are considering participating in the competition?
Formula Student is a big commitment, and many students underestimate this when they first join. It is almost a prerequisite to have adequate time management skills; you need to balance both university work and the competition. If you do decide to commit, you will not be alone and will have a whole new support structure around you. It is also important to remember what your true goal is - this is not like Formula 1 or any other racing competition, though it may share some similarities. It is first and foremost an engineering competition designed to push the limits of your knowledge and skills, and to prepare you for a future career in engineering. It’s easy to lose sight of the justifications for some of the design choices you make. As a Design Judge, the “why” questions are my favourite to ask competitors! Showing reasoning and a methodical approach proves you are on track to succeed.
About Formula Student
Organised annually, Formula Student challenges participants to design, build, and race formula-style cars, fostering innovation and pushing the boundaries of engineering excellence. With a focus on real-world applications, the competition cultivates essential skills such as problem-solving, teamwork, and project management. Formula Student equips participants with invaluable experience and prepares them for future careers in engineering, while also attracting the support of prominent sponsors like AB Dynamics, who recognise the event's significance in nurturing the next generation of engineering talent. For more information on AB Dynamics’ activities at this year’s event, visit our news page.