The first full day of SEM Europe 2016 broke beautifully over our campsite in northeast London. All tents and team members survived the first night of camping. Team leaders and drivers had an early start to begin the Technical Inspection (TI) process. By 9am, the entire team was in the paddock, hard at work to get the Geec 2.0 roadworthy for the week. Most of the 2016 Geecs were not in Rotterdam in 2015 due to work placement responsibilities, so would have been forgiven for cracking under the pressure of Day 2. But that’s not how we roll! (We roll on extremely low resistance Michelin tyres, if you are interested.) Technical Team Leads Shane, Keith, Sorcha, Julie and Sean, and Postgrad Advisor Barry drew up the work plan for the day and the team fell in around them doing whatever needed doing. It was beautiful in an organised chaos kind of way. The very first hurdle was one we didn’t expect to encounter in London; a plug-socket debacle! Despite the fact that SEM 2016 is in the UK, about 80% of teams are from continental Europe or North Africa; countries that are united by one thing, their beloved CEE 7 standard electrical plugs and sockets. While the UK and Ireland haven’t always seen eye-to-eye on everything, one thing on which we can certainly agree is the undoubted superiority of the good old BS 1363 (what you have at home). In the SEM organisers’ (presumed) desire to ensure pan-European harmony after the shock Brexit vote, teams were provided with continental-style sockets only, leading to the situation shown in the photo. Some swift purchases of adapters and “acquisitions” of extension leads meant this didn’t turn out to be a big production. But many less “cute” (in the Irish sense) UK teams were severely hampered in their TI preparations.
Square pins, round holes, and all that jazz!
By lunchtime the Geec was nearly ready for TI. At this point you might be wondering “Why are you still building your car at the event in which it is supposed to compete?” That’s a good question and there are many answers. First of all, the requirements to get an SEM car driving reliably at NUI Galway versus those to pass TI are very different. The SEM organisers need to ensure, above all else, safety of drivers, teams and spectators, and fairness. No hidden batteries, motors, or Fred Flintstone-style propulsion systems (no seriously!) are allowed. Because of this, passing TI is the most demanding part of the SEM experience, and was one of two explicit goals of the 2015 Geec effort. In addition to the car being perfect, the paperwork describing the car and its components must be perfect. Every team member had a role in TI preparation and every team member was flat out addressing the to-do list (see photo)!
Strike, strike, strike! Powering through the TI checklist on SEM Day 2
By 3pm, we were ready, and 30 minutes later entered the cauldron of the TI area. Those of you sporty types reading this might be familiar with circuit training. The TI area is like a giant circuit training session for amazingly cool student-built cars. Each car must (repeat must!) pass 10 rigorous technical and safety checks ranging from weighing and dimensional checks, to suspending the car by its seatbelts (with the driver strapped in), to checking the brakes on a steep ramp, to ensuring the driver can escape the car in less than 10 seconds. The driver vision and horn volume test looks quite impressive and is shown in the photo. The Geec passed every technical test with flying colours; a testament to the student team’s year-long slog of design at NUI Galway and the crash-campaign to get the last bits and pieces installed. Unfortunately, since TI closed at 6pm and we had yet to submit the paperwork, we needed to come back in the morning to tick the final box.
The Geec 2.0 undergoing driver vision and horn volume tests. The driver must be able to read small numbers written the stripped poles. This is not as easy as it sounds given the driver is lying down with his/her knees and the steering wheel potentially obscuring the view. Horn volume is measured by the man on the right in the purple shirt.
When that happens, the Geec will be cleared for test driving. This will enable us to tweak our mechanical and electrical systems to maximise our performance for the specific driving conditions of SEM Europe 2016; very smooth roads, lots of tight corners, and a monster of a hill! Wish us luck! Oh dear, it’s just started to lash rain. And some of the team left their tents open all day. And we have to cook dinner in the campsite! Oh well, no one said this would be easy. The hint is in the word “marathon”! Onwards to the track…
Just a bunch of Geecs making engineering happen!