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  • QUT Motorsport

2020 Year in Review

Updated: Jan 22, 2021

2020 proved to be a rollercoaster for our team. Our journey started in early January, where there was a common burning desire and hunger to take QUT Motorsport to new levels, which was fuelled by the gut-wrenching outcome of not having our car run at the 2019 competition. Our leadership team came together for multiple strategy meetings to establish both personal and collective goals for the year. This helped shape our vision and purpose for 2020.

Work for our 2020 campaign commenced at our annual ‘internship program’. This four-week internship involved 45 students, consisting of both existing and new team members. The focus was to fast track the engineering design of QEV-3 and further progress the team’s business development. An exciting addition to the 2020 internship program was the integration of the QUT Business School, to offer business students an official work experience placement.

Members of our team during our 2020 "Design Camp" Internship Program.

Leading into the start of semester one, focus was placed on the recruitment of new members. Our focus had taken a major shift from previous years, where the team used to be promoted as a ‘social’ and ‘fun’ place to be, whereas now it was made clear that team members would be working on ‘a high level specialised project requiring significant dedication’. This helped the team target the desired demographic and quickly develop expectations. As a result of this, we still managed a staggering attendance of 130 students at our week one meeting. Even after further elaboration of the required commitment, we still had an attendance of around 90 students at our week two meeting.

An area for improvement identified in 2019 was new member integration. A solution to this was the introduction of ‘new member projects’, where teams of roughly four students were formed at our week two meeting. Each team was given six weeks to complete a written report and video explaining their solution to a given mechanical, electrical, software or business-related problem. During this point in time, COVID-19 became prevalent and forced everyone to work online from home. At the due date, we were blown away to see that 27 out of 29 teams had completed a submission. This was a massive achievement, given that it is a volunteer extra-curricular project whilst also faced with the challenges of working online.

Our week one meeting and new members working on their new member projects with our senior team.

The impacts of COVID-19 forced the team to adapt quickly and operate in new ways. Lockdown restrictions meant that lab access was lost for over three months, which presented an unexpected hiccup to our manufacturing timelines. Luckily with support of sponsors and university staff, our team management was able to coordinate the logistics from home and still keep the project moving forward.

During the lockdown period, our team was faced with the toughest moment of 2020. On the 22nd of April, valued team member Tom Hardyman sadly passed away after a battle with Osteosarcoma. Tom was our Vehicle Dynamics Lead from 2018 through to 2020. During this time, he worked on building the foundations for our much-needed vehicle dynamics knowledge. This included the development of a tyre model and bicycle model. Tom never had any excuses and always had a positive attitude regardless of his circumstance. As a team, we ensured to follow this mentality and decided to dedicate our work in 2020 to remembering Tom. This is where #RacingForTom was born.

In light of keeping the project moving forward for Tom, our chassis team spent two weeks at LSM Advanced Composites in Toowoomba. Having LSM come on board as a sponsor in 2020 opened an unexpected door to new opportunities in the carbon fibre composite space. As a result of this, we were able to develop the team’s first ever carbon fibre chassis and allowed us to cut over half the chassis weight (25kg) in comparison to 2019. This was easily one of the standout moments in 2020.

Our Chassis team working at LSM Advanced Composites in Toowoomba

2020 was a tough year that caused financial strain on many companies. Fortunately though, we were still able to acquire additional sponsors that got behind us to support the project. This included Calm Aluminium, 3Dconnexion, PWR Radiators and Brisbane BMW Bodyshop. The generosity of their support has been incredible, and we can easily say that their involvement had a massive impact in what we were able to achieve in 2020.

As a result of the incredible support, we were able to reveal the launch of our rolling chassis in July. Reaching this milestone was a highlight of 2020, given that we were only one week behind schedule despite all the unexpected challenges from COVID-19. We were honoured to have the Science and Engineering Dean, Troy Farrell, and the Hardyman family join us for this special milestone. Read more about our rolling chassis and see our chassis launch video here:

Team operations started to return to normal in the second half of the year as the team was able to return to the lab. During this period, our electrical team became revitalised with new, highly motived students and the addition of Dr. Mark Broadmeadow as the team’s advisor for the electrical engineering division. Mark’s expertise in power electronics has made a monumental difference and has provided our team’s electrical students the much-needed support that lacked for many years. The combination of Mark’s knowledge and incredible commitment from the electrical and software team deserves worthy recognition for helping the team accomplish what we did in 2020.

Some of our electrical team and supervisor, Dr. Mark Broadmeadow

Towards the end of the year, our partnership with Brisbane BMW Bodyshop was established. We were blown away by their kindness and willingness to undertake whatever design we proposed for the car livery. Senior team members spent a lot of time thinking of how we could design the livery in a way to remember Tom. As a result, we followed the 2019 McLaren Formula One livery for our design as Tom owned an orange McLaren MP4-12C and loved the car brand. We also named the car ‘Lando’ after Tom’s favourite Formula One driver, Lando Norris. Our team will be forever grateful for Brisbane BMW Bodyshop making our vision a reality.

Brisbane BMW Bodyshop representatives with our team at our Launch Night and our 2020 Livery on Lando

Keeping this amazing design a surprise was a massive challenge, but it was worth the effort after seeing the reaction of staff, sponsors and family at our Launch Night in November. It was an honour to be joined by QUT Vice Chancellor Margaret Sheil, to show her the final product produced by passionate QUT students. A highlight of the evening was seeing the reaction of the Hardyman family. As ‘Lando’ was kept a surprise, it was their first time seeing the car livery, name and also the memorial for Tom on the rear wing. Emotions were high during this special moment.

Our team revealing Lando at our 2020 Launch Event

Significant media attention was gained shortly after the launch of Lando. QUT News published an article about our journey, ABC Radio hosted us for an interview and Channel 10 News filmed a segment at our first track-day. A letter with photos of the car was also sent to McLaren to show them what we accomplished. To our surprise, we got an amazing response with a video message from Lando Norris. To say we were thrilled would be an understatement! This level of media attention was a new experience for our team and promoted our project in a positive light. These new opportunities signify the progression of QUT Motorsport and can be credited to our media team for the fantastic work to make it possible. You can see our segment on 10 News First here:

Between all the other achievements, strong progress was being made to get the car ready for its first drive. On the 29th of November, Lando completed its first carpark test. This officially gave QUT Motorsport the title of the first Australian Formula SAE team to complete a four-wheel drive electrical vehicle! This was an emotional moment for our senior members, after seeing the battle for the past five years to produce a working electric car. Further steps were made in the following days by completing Lando’s first track-day. We were able to drive faster and gain a better understanding of the handling characteristics. See the highlights from Lando's first track-day here:

Lando's first track-day and car park test

The Formula SAE competition that takes place during December in Victoria was cancelled as a result of COVID-19. Everyone’s hard work throughout the year could not go unnoticed, so a local Queensland competition with UQ Racing and Griffith Racing Team was organised at Queensland Raceway. This friendly competition provided new team members the opportunity to experience the competition and develop their skills for the 2021 event. A major goal for 2020 was to pass scrutineering, as we did not pass high voltage scrutineering at comp in 2019. Although we had some challenges along the way, we managed to finally pass it on the morning of the final day! This in itself was a major win for our team, being the first time in our history that an electric car had passed scrutineering. Unfortunately, some electrical bugs presented itself and meant that we could not compete in the dynamic events. We were lucky enough to still get Lando out on track once the official events were completed. Seeing this put a massive smile on everyone’s face after what had been a tough and challenging time. The week ended with Tom's parents, Paul and Leanne Hardyman joining us for the final day to come support the team. They brought along Tom’s McLaren to get photos with our car next to it and the team surrounding. This photo will be on the wall of our lab for many years to come.

Our team at the QLD Student Shootout with Griffith Racing and UQ Racing

QUT Motorsport’s final event for the year was the official Formula SAE online competition. This was done as a replacement for the regular competition so that teams still had the opportunity to compete in the static events. In a field of 14 teams, we managed to achieve 2nd in the design event, 2nd in the cost event and 5th in the business presentation event. Overall, this resulted in our team having the highest total amount of points in the competition! To end the year on such a high note gives our team great momentum going into 2021.

This has been a collective effort from every person in our team and shows the strong growth happening at QUT Motorsport.

Thank you to everyone who was involved with our 2020 journey. Thank you to all our graduating members and leadership team for the endless dedication in 2020. In a year of many unexpected challenges and tough moments, we have been fortunate enough to walk away with many positive highlights. 2020 showed a lot of growth for QUT Motorsport, but expect even bigger things in 2021!

Luke McCallum

2020 Team Principal

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