Issue date: 11 December 2002

UWE Engineering student Joel Chase has literally joined the fast lane during his placement year with the BMW Williams F1 Team. Joel who is studying a BEng (Hons) in the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics will spend a year working with the team and has so far lapped up the experience. He enthused, “My opinion as to whether a placement year would be worth it was definitely heightened when I arrived for the interview, walked into BMW Williams F1 reception and found last years racing car and a whole host of trophies.”

As an R&D Assistant in the Electronics Department Joel helps with the design, development and testing of electronic systems used in racing cars in the Formula One Championship. Disciplines covered include hardware, software and mechanical design and involves working closely with the Electronics, Mechanical and Aerodynamics departments as well as the test and race teams.

Joel explains. “There are three main areas of electronics that go on and around a Formula One car. These are sensing what is happening, ie gathering data, storing it, and then finally extracting the data from the car. This can be done in real time, small "lap-sized" bursts, or in bulk at the end of a race, test, or during a pit stop.

“So far I have been involved in developing sensing systems for test and race cars, including a speed sensor which it is hoped will lead to knocking 0.1 sec off a lap time, a huge amount in Formula One racing. The development of these systems has, so far, consisted of specifying the actual sensor to be used, e.g. infra-red, hall-effect, inductive, optical, resistive and designing additional circuitry if required, bread-boarding/initial testing/fault-finding in the lab, and finally carrying out track tests on the car. This has already meant a trip to Silverstone, but as it is important to have good weather for testing, the majority of Williams' tests are carried out abroad. The next tests are in Valencia and Barcelona so I'd better sort my passport out!

“Being so close to an F1 car as it races past is a very loud and awesome experience, and there is always time to meet and chat to the drivers afterwards. Often it isn't just BMW Williams testing at a track - McLaren, Renault, BAR-Honda, Jaguar and others often turn up too which means lots of opportunities to see what the other teams are up to!

Commenting, BMW Williams F1's Technical Director, Patrick Head, said “We take a limited number of industrial Placement students each year, in part to assist them to learn more about the working environment, but also because sometimes, in special cases, these placements lead to full-time employment at a later stage.” “Research and development is a core requirement for a successful F1 team.” continued Chief Designer Gavin Fisher “Forming close ties with centres of Further Education provides an opportunity to accelerate technology and to nurture new talent for a future career in motorsport. Industrial placements are the ideal mechanism for these purposes.” Also commenting was Phil Farrand, Sensor Applications and Electronics Engineer. "Having Placement students is good for us as they always bring in fresh ideas and a fresh approach. Enthusiasm counts for so much in this industry!" he said.


Editors notes:

Jpeg images available from UWE Press Office.

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