Thursday, 14 December 2017
The sounds of engines revving and the faint smell of petrol aren’t things people normally associate with a university classroom.
But for students in Edith Cowan University’s (ECU’s) Motorsports course – recently judged to be one of the most innovative university courses in Australia – designing, building and driving a race car are all in a day’s study.
The Bachelor of Technology (Motorsport) program, established in 2006, received the ‘Award for Programs that Enhance Learning’ from Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham on 14 December at the Australian Awards for University Teaching 2017.
Each year the students design, build and race a new open-wheel car to compete against the best student racing teams from around the world in the Formula Student Competition.
ECU Motorsports is one of the smallest teams with only a modest budget.
But this had led to many new innovations. For example, the team are renowned for having pioneered a unique chassis manufacturing technique that is now adopted by other university race teams.
They are also one of just a handful to design, manufacture and successfully compete with their own customised engine, rather than utilise an existing motorbike engine.
The work is completed in a state-of-the-art motorsports workshop on ECU’s Joondalup Campus, with testing undertaken at nearby Barbagallo Raceway and smaller tracks around WA.
The workshop includes an engine dynamometer, damper dynamometer, engine flow bench, 3D laser scanner, 3D printer and instruments to test material strength and fatigue.
According to Program Leader Dr Kevin Hayward, fostering team work and knowledge-sharing among the students is crucial to success on the track.
“Peer-to-peer learning is a big part of the course. In our workshop you might see a first-year student applying their skills in race car wing manufacture alongside a third-year student that has learned data acquisition skills,” he said.
“Taking a Project-Based Learning approach, it really pushes the students to practically apply their theoretical knowledge to achieve the goal of designing and producing a competitive race car,” Dr Hayward said.
Graduates from the course have gone on to work with Supercar Championship, NASCAR and other race teams around the world.
“The skills our graduates learn are also applicable across a wide range of industries and we’ve seen our graduates employed in the oil and gas sector, construction and with utilities such as Water Corp,” he said.
The team are currently preparing their latest car to race in the 2018 Formula Student UK event at Silverstone, the home of British motorsport.
Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE) competition, Australasia:
2007: Best new team
FSAE competition, UK
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