Day in the life of a solar car mechanical engineer
Western Sydney University’s solar car team mantra is ‘Eat, Sleep, Solar Car, Repeat’, but what does a day in the life of a mechanical engineer involve?
For Andrew Grima, a typical day in the lead-up to the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge – a gruelling competition across 3,000km of rugged outback terrain from Darwin to Adelaide from 22-29 October – involves a hectic schedule but lots of fun.
Time spent in the solar car workshop at the Kingswood campus testing the team’s latest high-tech car, ‘UNLIMITED 5.0’, has ramped up for all team members over the last few weeks.
Andrew is excited to leave for the competition after being part of the team for just over three years. He’s very invested in the project and to finally be on the road to the starting line in Darwin brings up lots of emotions.
He said solar car is like a second family to him, with the time the team spends together demonstrating the passion they all share for this amazing project.
“At around 7am I like to get up and start the day full of energy by heading to the gym to work on my health and fitness, making sure to stay fit and ready for when we go away and work on the car for the competition,” said Andrew.
Once he’s arrived at the workshop, he has a quick catch-up with the team and then the mechanical engineers go straight into completing the day’s tasks, including laying up the carbon fiber sheets that make the structure or building and maintaining the suspension components of the car.
“Most of the mechanical team work together in an open environment and collaborate which makes time fly by. In terms of the tasks that we do, everything is very organised, and I just need to check our daily checklist with the aim of being able to complete all my tasks for the day.”
“Before we know it, the time is around 5pm. Every couple of days the mechanical team has a mid-week meeting where we discuss a range of topics from what we have archived so far in the week and any ideas or challenges.
“By now it’s around 6.30pm and there are some very hungry solar car team members, including myself. Thanks to the team members' lovely mums who cook us a homemade dinner, the entire team often sits around the team table and enjoys a meal together.”
As one of the team members selected to drive the solar car, Andrew has spent months preparing for the physical and mental challenge of the competition which takes place in some of the most rugged terrain in the country.
“Despite the pressure, UNLIMITED 5.0 is by far one of the most advanced cars out there and one of the most stable cars to be in. When we got to drive it for the first time, it was such an amazing experience and a massive weight lifted off my shoulders from the many hours of work we have put into it.”
Going into the challenge Andrew is most proud of the new skills that he has learnt during his time with the team and his progress as both a mechanical engineer and driver.
“Being able to play around with the best industry software and machinery is very cool and would be a highlight of this job and team.”
“As well as all of this my favourite part would be coming into the workshop every day and being surrounded by all these amazing and unique individuals.”
Andrew is in his third year of studies for the Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) at Western Sydney University.
13 September 2023
Photo credit: Jonathan Allen
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