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Mathcad White Paper: Mathcad in the Fast Lane

    ME students design Formula Competition car

    Mathcad is playing a central role for a Huddersfield University team designing a racing car for the prestigious Formula Student competition, featured on the BBC2 Top Gear program.

    Four Mechanical Engineering students – Martin Clowes, Simon Heywood, Hanif Khan and Colin Stubbs – entered their car for the design category of Formula Student, a European competition run jointly by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and gained 1st place in the Class Three (Design) category.

    Modeled on the Formula SAE competition in the USA, Formula Student gives entrants a year to design and build a small Formula-style car, based on a four-stroke engine up to 610cc, for a simulated factory production run. The vehicle is then judged on presentation, engineering design and cost analysis; speed and acceleration in solo performance trials; and high performance endurance and fuel economy in a 15-mile race.

    The project team used Mathcad Professional, alongside 3D CAD and specialist automotive prototyping software, primarily to model the load on components under acceleration, braking and cornering.

    “Although we have mechanism analysis programs available,” Simon Heywood explained, “Mathcad allows a number of variables to be tested quickly and is much better for preliminary design work. It is also much, much better than a spreadsheet or 3D model for teaching new team members the fundamentals and basics.”

    For the team, working under tutor Dr John Fieldhouse, the project is partly extra-curricular and partly as a group project required by their 5th year syllabus. This year’s work focused on design and project infrastructure, but their aim next year is to build the car and expand the project to involve students across all years of the University.

    “One of the benefits we have found with Mathcad,” Simon added, “is how we can keep an external document with all our main car constants defined on it, referencing it in other documents, to ensure that all calculations – and users – are using the same values.”