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Thread: Two simple rules to improve results.

  1. #11
    Junior Member
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    Jan 2011
    Findlay, Ohio

    Lessons Learned....

    Quote Originally Posted by Pat Clarke View Post

    Remember, FS/FSAE is an engineering competition with a motorsport theme, not a motorsport event.
    The intent is that you make your mistakes and cockups before you are inflicted on some poor employer.

    Yep! This statement is so simple that people often forget what it actually means.

    I think we often get lost in the thought of purely focusing on the competition itself, rather than the larger purpose the competition is serving - Aero/Auto Industry.
    I'd rather have the students screw up in FSAE, than screw up on a large vehicle that's getting into mass production.
    FSAE is probably one of the best opportunities students get to try and fail (several times over). The 'failure' part is critical for learning. I don't think we should mitigate failure by curbing the challenge of learning.

    Just my $0.02

    Sid Attravanam
    Susension/Vehicle Dynamics, UTA FSAE Alum (2009-2012)
    Vehicle Dynamics, Cooper Tire & Rubber Company

  2. #12
    I am wholeheartedly opposed to the nerfing of the mechanical design aspect of FSAE. Even if you eliminated the things-breaking-and-falling-off problems, you'd still have oiling, cooling, fueling, electrical, and no-start problems.

    200 kg for an FSAE car is like 1000 kg for an F1 car. It eliminates any need for aggressive engineering or prioritization. You could have a nice Suzuki 645cc vee-twin engine in a steel tube frame with no tube smaller than 1"x0.065", driving through an all COTS driveline, with 7/8"x.065" suspension arms hanging your hub/brake/upright hardware off the sides, and wings that you can use to throw the car onto the trailer at the end of the day.

    Beyond anything else, there are races for two kinds of 80kg-100kg vehicles about this fast that have no vehicle DNFs in a field of thirty or forty. The motocrossers have the advantage of racing carefully-engineered consumer products, but the karters don't...
    Last edited by Charles Kaneb; 03-13-2017 at 10:22 PM. Reason: Decided against badmouthing a competition sponsor
    Charles Kaneb
    Magna International
    FSAE Lincoln Design Judge - Frame/Body/Link judging area. Not a professional vehicle dynamicist.

  3. #13
    A speculation: I think a 150kg maximum weight would result in a higher finishing rate than a 200kg minimum would.
    Charles Kaneb
    Magna International
    FSAE Lincoln Design Judge - Frame/Body/Link judging area. Not a professional vehicle dynamicist.

  4. #14
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2005

    Thank you for breaking the recent boredom. Felt like sitting in a morgue.

    Unfortunately, I disagree with both your suggested Rule changes. You have the right intent, but have overlooked the core problems (given below).

    First, to briefly address the posts so far.

    Yes, the level of failure is a disgrace. It is now, and has been from the beginning. Such an easy challenge to meet ("...build a small car ... drive 30 kms..."), yet so many FAILURES. Something seriously wrong.

    Why is nothing being done?

    Well, plenty is being done, but in the WRONG DIRECTION. Take last year's Oz-comp where the organisers handed out a half-dozen Speciality Awards to the no-hoper losers!

    "Yes, Fat-Johnny, you did only manage a half-metre in the long jump in our under-9 Athletics carnival, ... SO HERE IS A GOLD MEDAL!"

    Rewarding incompetence does not fix incompetence. Quite the opposite.

    Dunk's "New Rule Number 1: When weighed, your car must have a minimum mass of 200kg."

    Will such a mandated minimum mass make the cars more reliable?

    NO WAY! The cars will become even worse. The teams will simply pile on top of their current unreliable junk another 10, 20, 50 kg of even more unreliable crap.

    Again, see last year's Oz-comp. After a disastrously unreliable Euro-tour with their 2015 car, Monash decided to fit their 2016 "get-back-to-basics" car with an ... electro-pneumatic-CLUTCH-control! This "let's shoot ourselves in the foot, AGAIN..." mentality delivered them their first NON-1st-place at FSAE-Oz in eight years.

    And there are countless other examples of overcomplicating this simple problem that will just get worse if students have to find some way of ADDING extra mass to the car.

    Looking at this the other way round, is a lightweight car inherently UNreliable?

    Of course not. I have been pushing the ~150 kg Brown-Go-Kart concept for a dozen years now, primarily because it offers a very cheap, and extremely RELIABLE, way of getting top-of-ladder. If it ain't there, it can't break! But very few takers. Remarkably, this avoidance of the BGK-concept is despite the fact that the few teams who have moved in that direction have also been very successful (eg. RMIT back around 2006+, and GFR more recently).

    (BTW, my latest thinking, worked out in considerable detail, is an "all-steel" car at 120-140 kg. This either as "cheapest-ever" car (ie. with brand new engine costing <Aus$300) that would be capable of top-five at most comps, or as a "very cheap" car (ie. with a better, but still inexpensive, engine) capable of top-of-the-world. But try to find a student who will believe that a cheap, steel-fabricated-whatever can be as light as, or lighter than (!), a 3-D-printed-titanium-whatsit.)

    Dunk's "New Rule Number 2: All teams ... to submit an advanced video of their running car... bonus points ... up to a maximum total of 50 points."

    Will this incentive of gaining a few extra points from an early-finished car help?

    Again, NO WAY. The current point structure offers teams a total of 425 points from Enduro/FuelEff (ie. nearly half of total!). A moderately competent team should easily pick up 300+ of those points, or around 1/3 of total points on offer. Has this MASSIVE points inducement helped raise the finishing rate in Enduro? Clearly not.

    Q1. What is the true, root cause, of this atrocious unreliability problem?

    A-1a. LACK OF NECESSITY! (Too much food!)

    As with Fat-Johnny above, the vast majority of students these days have grown up in an "...every kiddy gets a gold-star..." environment. The vast majority of FSAEers have NOT THE LEAST INTEREST in winning the comp. Or even in scoring well. Yep, just ask them.

    To be blunt, most students are in FSAE to have a "cool" time. They want to play with expensive, hi-tech, toys, all of which are payed for by someone else (ie. me, the taxpayer!). And, most importantly, they all know that regardless of how bad their FSAE car is, they can go-a-job-hunting next year with a CV that reads "... I wuz in FSEA last yir, so I ar a rilly gud unjeneer, so i deserv a rilly gud job, so gimme lotsa munny!...".

    Sadly, just this attitude is promoted by the FSAE organizers themselves, which compounds the problem. (I advise employers to be VERY SCEPTICAL of applicants with "FSAE" on their CVs. Most of them are freeloaders!)

    A-1b. PATHOS!

    Without a shadow of doubt, the vast majority of the students' "design" decisions are PATHETIC!

    [Trivia Note: (Yes, a thousand++ years ago all small boys learnt this as part of the Trivium.)

    * "Logos" decisions are made by the brain. These decisions are difficult, long-winded, and involve many boring numbers, and "logical" stuff. Worse yet, most often this line of thinking results in "aporia" (= "dead-end"), and the whole, BORING, process has to be re-started from some different angle.

    * "Ethos" decisions are made by the heart. They involve a bit of above and below. (This thinking pumps adrenaline into your system, so technically comes from the kidneys (= "renal"), but its effect is to get your heart racing.)

    * "Pathos" decisions are made by the stomach ... and regions further south! Such "...gut-feeling..." decisions are very quick and easy to make. Oh, sooo easy! In fact, most people are NOT even aware they make them. "Now, what happened to that huge chocolate-mud-cake that was here? Hmmm, someone must've eaten it?"
    End Trivia]

    This most significant root problem boils down to the fact that the majority of the students have their testicles in the driving seat, while their brain is fast asleep in the back-seat. (Face it, this comp is male-dominated.) The resultant overwhelming number of testosterone-driven (ie. pathetic) decisions swamp any logos thinking. Well, with the very rare exceptions of some small teams with a few "older heads" on board, or else very tight control by a "logos"-tical supervisor.

    Without such damping-down of the hormonal urges, the young boys just want to run around crashing into stuff, looking cool, doing all sorts of hi-tech-ery, and thus impressing the girls, or their peers, or even more so the DJs, or in the long term, any future employers. Nothing new or unusual here. Watch any nature documentary and see the young males stupidly strutting-their-stuff during rutting season. Same-old, same-old.

    But it ain't engineering! Just look at the pathetic results.

    So, finally,
    Q2. How to fix the problem?

    A2. Well, hormone suppression treatment would probably be socially unacceptable. And not necessary anyway, given that this problem has been around for millenia, and can be reasonably controlled by social pressures. In short, tell them to stop goofing-off!

    The lack of necessity is possibly harder to counter, but at the very least the "...every kiddy gets a gold star" approach should NOT be supported, as was done with the deplorable "Speciality Awards" mentioned above. The opposite approach should be taken. Any team not finishing a dynamic event should have their report card stamped, in big red letters, "FAILED!". These reports should then be made readily available to prospective employers.


    The "prestigious" DE is by far the biggest distraction to the testosterone-overdosed boys. This is the stage upon which, right from the beginning of the year, most students see themselves "strutting-their-stuff". This pathetic urge to impress the DJs ovewhelms any logos thinking. This is crystal clear. Blind Freddy can see it.

    So, redistribute DE points with +100 points going to Cost (with those points based on a realistic cost of building the car, not on "neatest correct entry"), and +50 points to Fuel Economy (based on actual fuel usage over the Enduro, not using the silly speed-biased formula).

    With no DE, the students' only opportunity to strut-their-stuff, in order to satisfy their hormonal need to impress the girls, their peers, or anyone else, is to build something that actually works. If the students want to look good, if they want to be seen as "players", then they have to build a car that actually turns its wheels.

    But will DE ever be dropped?

    I doubt it. The fact is that DE is there for the (pathetic) benefit of the DJs, NOT for the betterment of the students' education. This is obvious when it is looked at closely...

    But I have said much above that should be allowed to sink in. I will leave the DE/DJs' failures for another post.

    Last edited by Z; 03-13-2017 at 11:33 PM. Reason: Many words...

  5. #15
    Senior Member
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    Aug 2011
    Lawrence, KS
    Quote Originally Posted by Dunk Mckay View Post
    So "killing" certain design concepts is no justification not to change things.
    If anything, in this case, it would probably level the field a little. Decent smaller engines are harder to come by, especially for teams in certain parts of the world.
    Of course it would level up the field. Kill off all the design concepts until there is only 1 left (make FSAE a spec series) and the field would be more level than it's ever been. The question is, why would you want this for an educational design competition? This isn't racing. There are no fans that want to see an even race. There are no competing OEM's funding the series that all want to see their brands win. The goal of this competition was never to have all the teams finish as close together as possible, nor should it be. The goal was to give students and engineering challenge, and then see how well their design compares to other teams in a competitive environment. If there is a huge gap in how good of a job teams do, the points/results should reflect that.

    Additionally, based on 200kg it only really kills the the design concepts of teams that currently reiterate the same successful design every year. If the teams really are as good as their car, and not just resting on the laurels of those that came before, then changing their concept shouldn't be an issue.
    Teams reiterating the same design over and over is an entirely separate issue than the original topic of "how to get more teams to finish endurance". I agree with you in spirit, that teams have been able to successfully use the same formula for too many years, and trying to shake it up would be a good thing. And if they really are as good as their past results indicate, they will adapt and be just as successful again. But prescribing the design of the car in the rules is not the way to do it. Leave the design of the car as unregulated as possible, and change the event format or point allocations. Then see how the designs change in response. Make the acceleration distance twice as long. Make skidpad only 1 direction, and teams aren't told which direction until they enter they dynamic area, then they have 5 minutes to adjust and get in line. Revamp the cost event to make it more representative of the actual cost of the car. These kind of changes will make teams change their designs & adapt if they want to be successfull, but they have to use their own intelligence to figure out how, instead of just "the rulebook says we have to design our car to this concept now, so that's what we'll do".

    Also I get the sense that you're targeting specific teams / a specific concept with this rule idea. Maybe you're a little bitter that they've won so much with "the same car". But take a look at how many teams reiterate the same concept every year and DON'T win. They keep making 4 cylinder, 13" tire, 200kg cars every year despite getting their butt kicked on a yearly basis by a better concept. They're re-iterating just as much as the winning teams, they're just reiterating an inferior concept and doing a worse job of it. It doesn't make any logical sense to try and target the teams that are reiterating a good concept and winning, and force them into an inferior concept (allowing the teams that already use an inferior concept to just keep doing what they're doing) in an attempt to make everything more level. Let's say hypothetically we have 45% of the teams that keep carrying over concept A every year, 45% of teams keep carrying over concept B every year, and 10% actually trying significantly different concept changes. why do you think it's better or more fair to arbitrarily decide that concept A needs to be shaken up and forced into designing concept B to just to prove that they can do something other than copy the same car every year? But the teams that have always built concept B just get to keep carrying over their design. What is that proving? Why not shake up the competition in a way that makes EVERYONE re-evaluate their concept?
    Last edited by JT A.; 03-14-2017 at 11:28 AM.

  6. #16

    Test, Test, Test

    The focus of this thread slightly evolved from the weight - reliability relation to the reasons why so little number of cars finished the endurance.

    For me the main reason of lack of reliability is not low weight (if anything it is the other way around; heavy cars are less reliable). It is simpler than that: most of the teams spend too much time and allocate too much relative resources in concept, simulation, drawing, manufacturing and assembling their car and not enough in testing. Period.

    Formula one teams with as much a 1/2 billion $ budget and as much as 800 (mostly experienced and skilled) people still manage to break things in the recent 8 days of Barcelona tests. But there are still Formula Student guys who think that their car have a great chance to be reliable at the competition with practically no testing.

    Porsche, Toyota and (until last year) Audi LMP1 teams do perform as many as 7 rehearsals of 24 hours (in fact they run as much as 30 hours for each rehearsal) ahead of Le Mans 24 hours race. Applying the same ratio, it means that a FS team should do 7 times the endurance, that is about 200 km, without problem, before coming the competition.
    However that is comparing professionals with students... 500 Km of testing seems to be a bare minimum. But that wont' happen if the car is finished 2 weeks before the competition (if any - some cars are still being assembled in the paddock the day before of the competition)

    When I asked students how much test they performed before the competition 80 % of the time I have very vague answer such as “x days” and when I ask them how many hours, how many laps, how many km they really spent on the test track running, I don't get an answer.

    Even worse most of them do not have any written record of what did happen during these tests; some don’t even log the number laps ran.

    Here is a bit of advice for testing planning and report As design judge, I would like to see test report that includes at the minimum
    Weather condition and noticeable change during the day. A 300 $ weather station could be useful
    Track and air temperature before and after each run.
    Starting setup
    What is the test plan: what are we doing today? You rarely won’t achieve all the test goals but you cannot start a test day without a plan. And that is the problem; I know too many FS teams that go to the test track with the goal of “running the car” with no other details…
    Cold and hot tire pressure, cold and hot tire temperature (these measurements should be systematic every time the car leaves and come back to the pits)
    Time at which the car left and came back to the pits
    Number of laps per run
    Each lap time
    Driver subjective feedback
    Setup change
    After the test an engineering report that combines driver subjective data and car objective logged data analysis
    Conclusion: what went well / what did not go well / why / how can we improve / next action plan. This part of the report should include the car failure analysis and the way the team work together

    Last advice: have a plan B (and ideally a plan C) for each plan A for each part of the car. Example: your front wheel hub break. OK, bad drawing, bad manufacturing, shit happen that what this competition is about. 2 solutions A) you go home you redesign the hubs, reorder the material (you would be luck to have it next week), machine again, possible heat or surface treatment . you easily loose 3 to 6 weeks. B) you fit last year upright / hub / caliper and you loose just a few hours. Was that in the plans?
    Claude Rouelle
    OptimumG president
    Vehicle Dynamics & Race Car Engineering
    Training / Consulting / Simulation Software
    FS & FSAE design judge USA / Canada / UK / Germany / Spain / Italy / China / Brazil / Australia

  7. #17
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    (One of far too many.)

    About 5 years ago I would ocassionally drop-in to one of the local FSAE teams. During one visit late in the year, the car was finished and had already covered a few miles. The car was up on a table so I shook the wheels and noticed significant play. I traced most of the play to the wheel-bearings, which, on closer inspection, were of the 68xx (ie. "thin-ring", or "extra-lite") DGBB type.

    I suggested to the team members that there are much better ways of doing wheel-bearings, namely with same overall mass but with much higher load capacity and 1000x the lifetime. I added that their current setup was due for a catastrophic failure very soon, which might cost them many points at comp.

    Their response, almost sung in chorus, was,
    "Well, it's a racecar. That's what it's supposed to do!"
    Then something about Colin Chapman and,
    "...real racecars fall apart as they cross the finish line...".

    Indeed, at a later test-day one of the bearings did "let go". It ripped a corner off the car. So, by the time the new wishbones were made and fitted, and other damage repaired, there was no more time for testing.

    The important point is that this team is extremely well resourced. Fantastic workshop, great tech-staff, and a big bundle of cash put on the table each year (from me, the taxpayer!). But ever since their first comp in 2001 they have been perennial mid-fielders, with many, many DNFs.

    For example, at 2016 Oz-comp they had a very similar car to the one from 5 years ago. Same wheel-bearings. Same potential performance (= piss poor). And they FAILED TO COMPLETE A SINGLE DYNAMIC EVENT.

    Nevertheless, they all seemed quite happy. Smiles all round, joking, having a good time. And then at the Awards Ceremony ..... they received their very own "Speciality Award"!
    "Yee-hah! This is toooo easy! Didn't even have to do all the hard work of driving the car around and around..."

    And no doubt many of them are now in well-paid jobs, and "boldly advancing society's progress into the future"... (<- or make up your own meaningless modern-day waffle).

    These piss-poor design efforts, and the atrocious unreliability that follows, will not change until this matter is addressed head-on.

    Teams that bring cars that regularly fail to complete dynamic events should be condemned for what they are, namely PATHETIC. They should be PUBLICLY SHAMED, not rewarded. And their team-members should be discouraged from working in the engineering field, and advised to try something else.

    (To clarify, I am not talking about teams that get a puncture on last lap of Enduro because they drove over someone else's broken bits. I am talking about the real no-hoper teams, who are easy to identify.)

    Last edited by Z; 03-15-2017 at 05:56 AM.

  8. #18
    Senior Member
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    Jan 2009
    After quite some time finally an interesting discussion again

    Like most here I don't see any need to Change rules to achieve a higher finisher rate. In my opinion the reason for most failures are that teams set their focus wrong. During the last years I had conversations that are frightening. As others already mentioned, you get almost half the total Points in Endurance and Fuel. So not finishing those Events make any decent position impossible. But teams still focus on everything except reliability. How many points do you earn by the weight saving of a smaller battery and a thinner starter cable and how many do you lose if the car doesn't restart in driver change? There you go.

    I also have to agree to most of Z's post. I often get the feedback that I'm too harsh with the teams when giving feedback. But in my opinion if someone messed up, it isn't a big problem. That's what FSAE is about. But they need to realize they messed up to learn anything from it.
    Two or three years ago I had a discussion with a team at FSG who's car was a disgrace. The whole thing was just poor. After the suspension failed during brake test, the event was finished for them (it was no surprise that this would happen). Afterwards the team continued to moan about their bad luck and that now they wouldn't have to possibility to show the big potention the car had. I guess they didn't learn anything. Because to do so they would have had to accept that they didn't have bad luck and their car didn't have any "potential". Without realizing that, there can't be any improvement as they will just do the same all over again next year and they will have "bad luck" again...

    A couple of days ago I saw a documentary about the SpaceX challenge for student teams who had to build pods for the hyperloop. The whole thing was a disgrace. They had to build pods which where supposed to be accelerated to 350km/h by a sledge and the finish the distance as fast as possible. There was only 1 out of 50 teams which actually finished the distance. Most teams already failed because their pods wouldn't fit on the rails and similar bullshit. Still they would tell the participants the usual "everyone's a winner stuff". At least to half the teams they should have said "You wasted a shitload of many because you were uncapable of fulfilling the least requirements which were given. You fucked it up."

    The task is supposed to be challenging and if a team performs poorly there must be an adequate margin to those who perform well. That's it.

    I took part in 10 FSAE competitions and we failed twice to finish endurance in the last lap. In the first moment I was devastated by our "bad luck". But with some distance and after properly analysing what went wrong, the only correct conclusion was, we messed up both times. Stupid mistakes led to failures, end of story. I definitely learned more from that than I would have by finishing all 10 Endurances.
    Rennteam Uni Stuttgart
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    2009: Team captain

    GreenTeam Uni Stuttgart
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    Formula Student Austria
    2012: Operative Team

  9. #19
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Raleigh, NC

    I've worked my way up from knowing nothing to a state of extreme ignorance

    Because of the incremental nature of changes in FSAE I must assume that the organizers are meeting their goals. If the goal is to students to learn from their mistakes before going to an employer then less than half the cars completing endurance and all those ‘wasted’ tax dollars could be a good thing. I always learn more from my mistakes than successes and I would say FSAE is about 70% project and team management, 29% engineering, and about 1% racing.

    But if was desired to increase the completion rate then I would proposes the two ideas below. They could be implemented together or one without the other.

    Idea 1: Junior FSAE
    In the past I have recommended that students and new teams pursue Baja SAE instead of FSAE. Baja teaches the same project and team management lessons but at a lower cost, lower physical risk, and lower risk of not completing the car.

    So I would propose a junior FSAE class. There would be a spec engine, only the regular frame rules (no AFR), and a prohibition on certain materials (carbon fiber, titanium, ectera). This series would still teach the important lessons of FSAE but at a cost and risk level like Baja. In many ways Baja already is this series but not all of us like that much mud . These cars would compete at the same events as the regular FSAE cars but in a different class, much like other professional racing series. I would also propose some mechanism where teams could move from one class to the other, Maybe limit regular FSAE to 50 teams (in the USA) no limit for the number of junior teams. Then at fixed intervals (every 3 years?) the bottom 10 regular FSAE and top 10 junior FSAE teams would swap classes.

    Idea 2: Many small events
    Most FSAE events have a huge number of teams, so you need lots of space and lots of volunteers. So organizing an event is difficult and costly. I think that a greater number of smaller events could be easily organized. Almost every weekend all across the USA there are autocross events held in parking lots and run by a few volunteers. Why could FSAE not do this? There are FSAE alumni all across the country and with the help of organizations like the SCCA there could be “tryouts”. These events would be small (10 to 20 teams), short (probably just a Saturday), and would only have three events; a technical inspection, an informal design review, and then several hours of autocross. Teams would need to complete the autocross in 200% of the fastest time in order to compete at a larger event. We would not need the top level people from FSAE to attend but it would be good for some representative of SAE (not necessarily FSAE) to be there to officiate. I am not sure how the insurance would work but if the SCCA seems to have figured it out. This would also allow more people to volunteer since the events would be much closer to home and only one day long.



  10. #20

    Want to Learn How to Swim? Jump in the pool!


    FSAE / FS rules are already too complicated. Class 2 and now Junior FSAE...? You are a student for only a few years: you do not need many intermediate steps. What are you afraid of?

    The best way to learn how to swim is to jump in the pool; give yourself some challenges and figure out how to solve them.

    Limiting yourself to a tubular chassis and simple material should be your choice and should depend on your team ability to reasonably put together means and goals; it shouldn't be imposed by any rules.
    Claude Rouelle
    OptimumG president
    Vehicle Dynamics & Race Car Engineering
    Training / Consulting / Simulation Software
    FS & FSAE design judge USA / Canada / UK / Germany / Spain / Italy / China / Brazil / Australia

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