The biggest, and I guess longest standing perception I had was a sense of arrogance from FS team members. I was struck however, by the camaraderie and support amongst the universities. With the competitive nature of professional motorsport, I was expecting a similar closed-door policy between teams. What I witnessed was people proud and eager to discuss the fine details of their car, with anyone that showed interest. Jaded old race engineers, proud parents, or fellow students from other teams. The support for each other was best summed up when I saw a meeting amongst a handful of universities, with someone giving a crash course in how he had made the Brake System Plausibility Device (BSPD) safety system work, and helping fault diagnose others issues based on his own experience. I got the sense that everyone appreciated how hard it is to get a car to the competition and through scrutineering and they wanted others to achieve the same.
I was also struck by the sense of support within the teams themselves. It was clear there was a sense of pride, individually but also what they had achieved collectively. I heard more comments of admiration for others in the team, than wanting to sing their own praises. This was best summed up with Warwick University, who when asked about the biggest change from last year, launched into how they had changed the culture, social, and support network within the team. I had meant the car itself, but the car wouldn’t exist without the team of people and a strong and supportive work ethic.
If the competition itself is the reason for a hard work ethic and strong team spirit, or simply the vehicle to indulge and encourage what is already there in the students is hard to quantify, and perhaps not important. What is important, is the competition offers promising young engineers of the future a chance to push themselves, academically, mentally, and socially. It is unlikely that these young adults have been pushed so hard, for so long, in a team environment ahead of working in Formula Student. Neither is it likely to have worked closely with other disciplines of engineering. Of course, there are those that drop out along the way for various reasons, it doesn’t mean these aren’t promising engineers with bright futures. It used to frustrate me when I would hear some of my younger colleagues tell me it wasn’t uncommon to not make the first round of selection for graduate jobs if FS wasn’t on the CV. I guess it was due to the fact I didn’t have it on mine, and I felt like my career has turned out largely as I wanted. But, and it’s a big but, I get it now.
I understand the sense of pride, sometimes verging on arrogance of some people I’ve worked alongside when they talk about their FS team, sometimes from 10 to 15 years in the past. I now appreciate the glint in their eyes when talking about it. I guess in some ways, I had mistaken this pride for arrogance, but also I have to question if it was a long standing buried jealously of not having competed in it myself. I won’t be joining those who instantly dismiss a graduate CV if FS isn’t present, however there will now have to be clear evidence of something that replicates the engineering and communication skills built from participation in the competition.
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