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Thread: Design Event FSAE-A

  1. #1
    There's been some discussion about the FSAE-A design event but it's been muddled into other threads and so I decided to post here.

    Keep in mind what I say is by no means an official word but my opinion; which may differ from how other judges see things. That's the good thing about posting this here because you can get feedback from others involved.

    The Design event will always have one major issue, and that is you can't have all the same people judge the same cars. There is simply not enough time. So the result is you don't have a completely even playing field. Communication between judges, understanding of judging criteria, and spreading quality cars (from design reviews) among groups can minimize this.

    The solution to this is having Design Finals. This means that the best cars do get a completely level playing field, and the winner is judged fairly. This puts resources to thier best use. The Design event is a lot of points but I think most would agree that the prestige factor is bigger than the points. Therefore more effort is put into deciding the proper winner than getting all cars ranked perfectly. Because nobody goes home upset because they think they should have gotten 9th in Design but they got 12th.

    So.. for example in FSAE-A this year the two best cars in each design made the finals. Were they the 6 best cars? That is debatable, and really impossible to prove. But that's not the point of the finals. The point is to make sure that any car that is considered a possible winner gets a fair shake at the final prize. Yes it is prestigious to get into the finals, and I'm sure some teams were disappointed they didn't get in. But all a team had to do was prove to thier group of judges they are top 2 of 8 cars. If you can't do that, then in my opinion I don't think you really deserve to be in the finals.

    The design event overall rankings seem to be far too carefully analyzed. One reason is the previously mentioned problem of different judging groups. The other is these are a lot of really good cars! Look at the points, not the ranking. Because in some cases 5 cars are under 10 points apart. So you might say that a car finishing 10th in design finishes 5th in Endurance and 5th overall, so the design judges must have missed something. But in reality maybe that car was only 8 points away from being 6th in design. It really was that close.

    Comparing the dynamic events to design is nice, and certainly you want the results to be close. But it's not something that should always happen. They are two seperate events. All teams I saw had a good understanding of how to make a good vehicle. So any of those teams with a good testing program and trained drivers can have a solid finish dynamically without being stand-out in design. There is also the problem of teams having the knowledge but not being able to show the judges due to lack of information at the event or just poor communication skills.

    Of course UQ was the only real obvious discrepancy at the event this year, being extremely good dynamically but only marginal in the design event. I was not in that judging group so I can't comment. I don't know why they were ranked where they were. But a car that good does not come by mistake so I know they did a great and competant job designing it. Only someone from UQ or the judging group can offer any info on that.

    I was impressed by the judging group at FSAE-A. They are very dedicated and they really want to do the best job they can. Much discussion was put into every decision. However, it's a question of evaluating a lot of information in a short amount of time.

    I have read all design reviews and if anyone wants comments I would be happy to oblige. Please contact me directly at cping@hra.com
    -Charlie Ping

    Auburn FSAE Alum 00-04

  2. #2
    There's been some discussion about the FSAE-A design event but it's been muddled into other threads and so I decided to post here.

    Keep in mind what I say is by no means an official word but my opinion; which may differ from how other judges see things. That's the good thing about posting this here because you can get feedback from others involved.

    The Design event will always have one major issue, and that is you can't have all the same people judge the same cars. There is simply not enough time. So the result is you don't have a completely even playing field. Communication between judges, understanding of judging criteria, and spreading quality cars (from design reviews) among groups can minimize this.

    The solution to this is having Design Finals. This means that the best cars do get a completely level playing field, and the winner is judged fairly. This puts resources to thier best use. The Design event is a lot of points but I think most would agree that the prestige factor is bigger than the points. Therefore more effort is put into deciding the proper winner than getting all cars ranked perfectly. Because nobody goes home upset because they think they should have gotten 9th in Design but they got 12th.

    So.. for example in FSAE-A this year the two best cars in each design made the finals. Were they the 6 best cars? That is debatable, and really impossible to prove. But that's not the point of the finals. The point is to make sure that any car that is considered a possible winner gets a fair shake at the final prize. Yes it is prestigious to get into the finals, and I'm sure some teams were disappointed they didn't get in. But all a team had to do was prove to thier group of judges they are top 2 of 8 cars. If you can't do that, then in my opinion I don't think you really deserve to be in the finals.

    The design event overall rankings seem to be far too carefully analyzed. One reason is the previously mentioned problem of different judging groups. The other is these are a lot of really good cars! Look at the points, not the ranking. Because in some cases 5 cars are under 10 points apart. So you might say that a car finishing 10th in design finishes 5th in Endurance and 5th overall, so the design judges must have missed something. But in reality maybe that car was only 8 points away from being 6th in design. It really was that close.

    Comparing the dynamic events to design is nice, and certainly you want the results to be close. But it's not something that should always happen. They are two seperate events. All teams I saw had a good understanding of how to make a good vehicle. So any of those teams with a good testing program and trained drivers can have a solid finish dynamically without being stand-out in design. There is also the problem of teams having the knowledge but not being able to show the judges due to lack of information at the event or just poor communication skills.

    Of course UQ was the only real obvious discrepancy at the event this year, being extremely good dynamically but only marginal in the design event. I was not in that judging group so I can't comment. I don't know why they were ranked where they were. But a car that good does not come by mistake so I know they did a great and competant job designing it. Only someone from UQ or the judging group can offer any info on that.

    I was impressed by the judging group at FSAE-A. They are very dedicated and they really want to do the best job they can. Much discussion was put into every decision. However, it's a question of evaluating a lot of information in a short amount of time.

    I have read all design reviews and if anyone wants comments I would be happy to oblige. Please contact me directly at cping@hra.com
    -Charlie Ping

    Auburn FSAE Alum 00-04

  3. #3
    Charlie were you a judge, or an observer?

    Thanks for the post, good points.

    Andy
    Michigan Technological University Formula SAE Alumni

  4. #4
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    Charlie,

    My main concern with the Design event is this: If I am an employer looking to hire some good design engineers, should I let my decision be influenced by the relative scores/positions that the job applicants received in an FSAE Design event? I am sure that any young engineer who made Design finals, or even 1st in Design, will definitely mention that on their CV.

    Well, at the moment, I don't think FSAE Design ranking is any sort of reliable measure of a student's design abilities.

    UQld apparently lost their picture boards, and overnight they became design dummies. As far as the students' design abilities go, the Design scores suggest UQld are only half as good as UWA, whereas the dynamic events suggest UQld are neck and neck with UWA.

    Anyway, to me, the current Design event seems to be too much about the students putting on a good show for the judges, with lots of flashy props, etc., rather than an attempt by the judges to find out just how good the students are at design, or how deeply they understand their subject, or, for that matter, how well they designed their car.

    Engineers, generally, are not very articulate. Being a smooth talker or a good showman doesn't really have any connection with engineering design ability. In fact, often the inverse is true. I can see how showmanship can be an advantage in big companies where the engineer is constantly having to "sell" his ideas to the many levels of management. But that is a flaw in the culture of big companies. Small businesses generally prefer good design engineers to good BS artists.

    I'll end with an analogy. Just say you are the coach of a football team (any code). You are into the Grand Final, and one of your key players has just dropped dead. You have two potential replacements: The short fat guy who has been everywhere, done everything, has the right answer to every question, and is great fun at parties. Or the other guy who comes across like a gibbering psychopath, has terrible body-odour, but can run like the wind, has the ball on a string, and can score points from anywhere on the field (insert your favourite footballing cliches here).

    You want to win, so who do you pick?

    Z

  5. #5
    Storbeck, yes I was a volunteer judge at FSAE-A this year.

    Z, All fair points. But what is your solution? Kill design entirely?

    The problems you state are well-understood. That's why the cars race! That's why dynamic events are so heavily weighted! That's why despite doing poorly in design UQ still got a 2nd place. Which I might add looks quite good on a CV/resume.

    In the real world you will constantly have to sell your ideas before being able to act on them. Like you said, many big companies are like this. This is a good part of the real-world engineering experience, even if you think that part of the real-world sucks.

    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Well, at the moment, I don't think FSAE Design ranking is any sort of reliable measure of a student's design abilities. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

    I disagree. It's not perfect. Your error is that you are saying the overall/endurance results are a perfect measure because that is what you are comparing. I disagree. Good designs are passed on without students being knowledgable. Cars fail endurance. Drivers make mistakes, etc.

    The design event is not about presentation only. There were some ridiculously extravagant design boards and presentation that didn't make it to the finals, there were some cars in the finals with just rudimentary displays. I don't car about displays. But I would want to see data when I need more explanation. Some of the best data presented was NOT on some flashy board but on a laptop or notebook, something I could tell wasn't made for design but was part of the actual process. That's the best stuff. Although, I would't recommend doing that only as boards provide the quickest way of referencing information and there is a limited amount of time.

    In summary, in my opinion-

    -Design is a process of proving your design decisions in a short period of time- about 30 minutes. So organization and preperation does play a big role. There's no way to eliminate this.

    -Flashy props or boards don't mean much. In fact I am suspicous of them because I know they were created just for this process. But if I ask for information and they provide it that's good.

    -The judging team I worked with was very good and very knowledgable. They worked hard to properly rank the cars we judged. If the students did not properly provide judges with enough information then it is not the judges fault. Looking at dynamic results and using them to critcize design is easy. But as a judge you have to go off only what the students can tell you to justify thier design and design process, and compare it to your own experience and intuition.

    -Design is 15% of the overall score! That's because it's not about what you say but what you do. That's why dynamic events matter most. But the design event is still good because it makes students justify thier designs under pressure. I learned more doing that as a student than anywhere else. Judge's questions made me think about what I'd done in different ways.
    -Charlie Ping

    Auburn FSAE Alum 00-04

  6. #6
    There's another complication. At my school there is a system in place where you get a meager amount of credit for being on the FSAE team. You can eventually even substitute it for your "senior design" project if you are willing to deal with some bullshit (argueable less bullshit than senior design) as a result there are a whole lot of members on the team, but many are there "because I didn't want to take senior design". I imagine every one of them has FSAE on thier resume, but many of them have done little or nothing usefull. The only way a potential employer would know if they are really functioning members of the team or people who signed up for a one credit class is by talking to them, and asking them questions about the car.

    There are something like 40 members on the team, of those the people who designed a part that went onto last years car can be counted on one hand. We have a ton of promising new members this year, but the fact remains.

    I doubt we're the only school that is this way.

    The point is that the standing in the design competition, and the standing in the overall competition, and wether your team deserved it, are irrelevent if the person in question wasn't an active member of the team anyway. It's also quite possible to have a guy that is a very good powertrain person, but doesn't have anybody to make him a winning chassis to put the motor in. It all comes down to the interview either way, same as design comp.
    Michigan Technological University Formula SAE Alumni

  7. #7
    In my opinion, I think that the design judges do a great job, charlie's right, covering sooo many cars on an even playing field would be almost impossible, but they seem to do a good job.
    I still think that there were teams in Australia who may have been unlucky (UQld and Monash), but I also didn't see their presentations, so can't argue either way.
    For our team, I can also say that whilst we did a great job to get 5th in design, there were area's that we could have improved upon in the actual presentations. But as we should've all learnt by now from participation in group assignments, there will always be a couple who lack the motivation to put in fully, and that's just what happens. You've just gotta hope that everyone else can pull together enough to cover the holes.

    just my 2c
    Andrew Costin
    Engine Team Leader 2005
    General Nuisance 2006
    team Swinburne
    Swinburne University

    It's not true that life is one damn thing after another; it is one damn thing over and over.

  8. #8
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by Charlie:
    Z, All fair points. But what is your solution? Kill design entirely? </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Charlie,

    No, don't kill it entirely. But make it more objective, and aim it more at rewarding good actual "design", rather than just good "presentation" of design ideas.

    So instead of me just criticising, here is a possible alternative system of point scoring for FSAE:

    COST - 100pts.
    Split 50pts for manufacturing/costing knowledge, and 50pts for the "real cost" of the car. The real cost has to be much more realistic than now (as pointed out on another current thread, and also because of last event below). How much would an F4i, at 1000/year, new and/or with some sort of warranty, really cost? Perhaps use an independent assessor - maybe a retired tax collector?

    PRESENTATION - 100pts.
    Split 50pts for marketing presentation (as now - how much money the manufacturer of these cars will make), and 50pts for technical presentation (similar to current Design, where the teams sell the big picture design aspects of their car, eg. why small and light is better than big and powerful, or vice versa...).

    DESIGN - 100pts.
    Split 50pts from an exam type test of the students knowledge of general design (eg. "Which spaceframe structure - A, B, C... - is stiffer under the shown loadings"), and racecar specific stuff (eg. "Calc. RMD of this car"), and 50pts from Design judges appraisal of design details of the car (done while students are in exam).

    SKID PAD - 50pts.
    As is.

    ACCELERATION - 50pts.
    As is.

    AUTOCROSS - 100pts.
    As is.

    ENDURANCE - 300pts.
    Still gives a major emphasis on reliability (which IMO is a good thing), but maybe less of the "one spilt drop of oil and you're out!", because this is not realistic.

    FUEL ECONOMY - 100pts.
    It's getting expensive! Also FE is often a good indicator of a car's overall efficiency - gas guzzlers can be expensive to buy, wear tyres out quickly, require more maintenance$$$, etc...

    BFYB - 100pts.
    (Bang For Your Buck) This is calculated at end of comp as (Dynamic pts)/(realistic car cost), scaled appropriately.

    Eddie Martin made the point that "you make your own luck". What he didn't mention is how much this stuff costs to make - it is expensive! Most teams know they might get "unlucky" and not complete Enduro. So, IMO, they try to at least do well in the prestigous Design event, which requires less luck. So they design/build something that ends up too sophisticated/complicated for their resources, which then results in them not completing Enduro...

    If BFYB is made the new "prestige" event (via big trophy/good prizemoney), then the students are encouraged away from "showpony" cars which might do well in current Design, and towards the "fast and cheap" cars that are the stated objective of FSAE (see Rule 1.2).

    This would be good for the development of future engineers.

    Criticisms welcome.

    Z

  9. #9
    Some pretty good ideas, but I think they would probably bring about the same issues as now.

    The structure for design you suggested can badly harm certain teams that dont go a particular design path. You'd have to ask questions that are relative to the vast majority of fsae cars, or at least the general concepts. This may encourage teams to build a vanilla spaceframe and f4i car in hopes of finding out the most answers as possible on the design quiz during actual design of the car.
    Maybe if this type of evaluation were put into place, you'd give teams a certain amount of time to give the why's and how's, not the how much's (ex: why did you choose that type of chassis and how did you optimize? how did you proceed for the design of the braking system? what were your goals in terms of suspension design and how did you achieve these goals?).
    But this is exactly how the current design event scheme works, minus the whole presentation and salesmanship thing.

    Also, I think it is a very bad idea to have judges poking and proding around the car without any input by the team, as it is very probable that they might miss some neat features that aren't immediately visible but are actually quite interesting (maybe a particular use of a bracket, some clean little adjustment method for some part, a clever manufacturing method, or a bit of code in the ECU).

    For the cost event, this has been an issue of much debate, but it is extremely hard to put a value on an engine. The f4i is very available, and Honda gives engines to many fsae teams, so it is reasonable to assume that Honda would supply your company with 1000 engines at a reasonable cost for your production run. Some of the single cylinder engines being used are not as popular, so it is a lot harder to source these secondhand, and manufacturer support is questionable. Granted, if you can get them made for you, it'd probably be cheaper, but probably not by very much (consider the wr450f with a whole bunch of titanium parts and dry sump, vs the all aluminum and steel f4i with nothing too fancy).

    Fuel economy is probably not high on the list of design priorities for a small race car which must only do a few laps before an opportunity to refuel. Fuel economy is still important though since this is the general trend the auto industry in general is going towards, but I don't know if it's enough to be worth as much as skidpad and acceleration combined. Also, this could encourage teams to drive at 5/10ths, keeping the revs low to save fuel, which wouldn't really be within the spirit of the autocross. Maybe have something like fuelscore = (100 - r*fuelused/enduroscore), where r is some constant to make this make sense. At some point before my time here, McGill placed 1st or 2nd for fuel economy because our pneumatic shifter got stuck in 4th, but we were slow as hell, and it was lame.

    Matt Gignac
    McGill Racing Team

  10. #10
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    I'm going to add fuel to the fire. But I believe unless you are capable of explaining your designs and presenting them to another, you are a bad engineer.

    Maybe a good scientist, but a bad engineer.

    Most engineers end up in positions where they must manage projects. Sometimes very large projects. A lack of communication skills is definitely a detriment in these situations.
    In this way the design event is very much like real life.

    I know many people who graduated University with high exam marks that make horrible engineers. I am sure that I am not the only person that knows people like this. An exam style section to the design event only encourages this.

    Currently the FSAE competitions asks a lot of the students in order for them to be successful. I would hate to see the comp start to baby the students with the goal of trying to eliminate subjectivity.

    Here is the problem: The design event requires you to not only design, manufacture and test a high quality vehicle it also requires you to communicate your efforts to the judges satisfaction.

    Engineers are supposed to be able to solve problems.

    Kev

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