Pole position

 

The lure of fast cars, roaring engines and the glamour of the motor racing industry is taking Monash engineering students out of the classroom and on to the track.

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It's a cold, wet and windy day at a go-kart track in Melbourne's eastern suburbs. But this track has become a familiar setting for ten engineering students who are this year's entrants in the international design and racing competition known as Formula - Society of Automotive Engineers (F-SAE).

The international competition requires students design, build and race Formula 1-style race cars.

Monash Motorsport students are devoted to their project, sacrificing their social lives in favour of long days and nights at a mechanic's garage building their entry, or at the track testing the result of their work.

Project Manager in 2009, third-year student Rachel Mace, is passionate about engineering and motor sports.

"We love learning how to make the best racing car and then competing against other students. We love the team work and the friendships that come with an experience like this," Ms Mace said.

While students are required to test their cars in time trials, there are a host of other tests, including fuel efficiency, endurance and design evaluation.

Just like real-world motor sport, the team has a budget that F-SAE has set at $25,000 with which to build the car. Panels are made of carbon fibre, the wheel rims are aluminium, and the engine and working parts are all made from durable and lightweight alloys. Students raise funds to pay for the project.

"We're lucky that Monash University supports us and a lot of business operators see that we're putting in the hard yards as well. A lot of time goes into this project, but the benefits are enormous," Ms Mace said.

Students compete for the Australasian title at the end of each year at a race track on the outskirts of Melbourne. By then lifelong friendships have been made.

"I've made a lot of friends," student Jared Tyler said. "We have a common project, a common goal and it's this unique bond that we achieve that really adds another dimension to life at university."

The team will take the car to Germany in August 2010 to compete against the European university teams. This means it will be even more work - up to 50 hours extra a week - to get the car up to scratch. Exam and study commitments must also be met.

The opportunity to gain skills in fabrication and machining is invaluable for the students, as they will take what they have learnt into the workforce after graduation, giving them an edge over other graduates. Also, as graduate positions within engineering are highly competitive, prospective employers are looking for candidates with real-world experience, something all F-SAE students have to offer.

Engineering staff say the project means more than winning a car race. The benefits of team work, project management and engineering application means students are already on track for career success.

Monash Motorsport is proud to be ranked among the top teams among more than 500 entrants worldwide, and took out fourth place in the world championships in 2008.

Find out more about the team on the Monash Motorsport website.