Dubai students develop F1-style racing car, clinch third spot in international competition

‘Team Al Fursan’ from BPDC participated in Formula Student Netherlands 2022 competition


Nandini Sircar

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‘Team Al Fursan’. Photo: Supplied
‘Team Al Fursan’. Photo: Supplied

Published: Mon 18 Jul 2022, 6:29 PM

Nine months of hard work has finally paid off for ‘Team Al Fursan’, a group of university students from Dubai who participated in the Formula Student Netherlands (FSN) 2022 competition and bagged the third prize.

FSN is the Dutch edition of the world’s largest student engineering competition, which challenges students to understand, design, and develop a formula-style racing car.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, the 14-member team from BITS Pilani Dubai Campus (BPDC) explained the challenges that lay ahead as they conceived the idea.

“Challenges were manifold. One of them was that no initial documentation to guide us around was available. We had to spend a lot of time learning about things. For the first time, we were building this car as a team in the UAE, and we couldn’t find many suppliers of components and parts in the GCC market. For example, to get the tyres, we had to check around in different countries, and yet we didn’t get what we wanted for our car,” explained Adhav Kumaravel a 4th-year Mechanical engineering student.

‘Team Al Fursan’ with the trophy. Photo: Supplied
‘Team Al Fursan’ with the trophy. Photo: Supplied

Students from multidisciplinary groups of the university collaborated to build the car. It has been designed specifically bearing in mind the health, comfort, and safety aspects of a driver, drawing upon biology, psychology, engineering, and design, that create vehicle environments in which drivers have a lower chance of injury.

Supervising faculty for the project, Dr Priyank Upadhyaya of BITS Pilani Dubai campus, says, “Whenever you have such projects, the funding part is always a big challenge. Over Dh120k has been spent on this journey and for this car to be sent to Netherlands.

"Covid-19 posed another difficulty. The supply-chain logistics due to the pandemic was an additional problem and importing things took longer. So, we had to factor those things in and generate funding.”

The initial funding was provided to the students by the university so that they could kick-start building of the car.

Dr Upadhyaya added, “Once, they had the basic structure ready they had to go out and approach sponsors. They have been very active on that front and secured a lot of funding from outside.”

Remembering the first day when two students approached Dr Upadhyaya with the idea, he says, “Two of these boys were doing their summer internship when they approached me and told me about their plans. I encouraged them to start the process, saying, 'I’ll endeavor to bring in whatever support I can'. That’s how they took up the challenge and finally participated in the competition.”

BPDC was the only team selected from the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region and competed with 18 global teams.

Shedding light on their initial apprehension ahead of the contest at the venue and rejoicing in their first time win at an international competition, team member Shobal Philip Roy said, “As a first-time participants in this competition which was at an international level there were many concerns. I witnessed there were participants who had come before and developed their car’s performance with each participating year, increasing their performance by learning from other teams. So, our aim was to learn and understand from others as well. I am glad that we turned around something in a short span because there were teams who took two to three years as opposed to nine months that we spent.”

Juggling between their classes, exams, internships and participation in the competition, team members say that things got challenging with each passing day.

Adhav expalins, “The time that we spent on the car kept increasing on a daily basis. We spent two to three hours on the project. From January 2022 onwards when we started building the car, we got a lot of hands on the car. People worked on the car without looking at the time. Everyone got so passionate about it and simultaneously involved; there were people who worked from morning to 10-11pm at night. We all enjoyed working on it."


Students pulled in all-nighters

He adds, “When we had a month before the competition, we started pulling in all-nighters to finish this. People only slept for two to three hours a day, especially during our final exams in the last two weeks of June. So, we did both.

"Some students had their ongoing internships as well. They would finish their internship and then come in the evening and work through the night in the car. Gradually we started test-running our car; we made final changes and improvements in the last one week before it was sent to Netherlands.”

Going forward the team has now been selected for Formula Bharat (FS Bharat), an engineering design competition.

Shobal says, “We did a dyno test for the car at a garage here and got the ratings out of it. We didn’t have enough time for shipping, so instead of shipping the car we had to send the car by air.”

Looking back on their accomplishment, another team member Abhilash Sadanandan, says, “It was a dream for us. We wanted to climb and conquer this huge wall in front of us. Even if people felt exhausted, they kept going relentlessly. We had thought even if we don’t win, we’ll improve and win next time, but our hard work paid off and we won a trophy this time itself.”

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