The Kyoto Institute of Technology racing team Grandelfino aims to win its third consecutive victory in the Student Formula SAE Competition of Japan. We asked them about what makes their team special and what are the key points to win. I hope you will enjoy our first ever student team interview coming to you from Japan. Junpei is from the Kyoto Institute of Technology and is part of the Grandelfino project team that hopes to win their third Student Formula SAE competition this year. Junpei was interviewed by Keiko Takahama, who is Altium’s APAC Regional Marketing Manager.
Keiko Takahama: Kishi-san, thank you very much for your time today, and the opportunity to learn about your project. Please share what your team does, how the team was formed, and in what year?
Kishi: We in the student formula project Grandelfino are the racing team of Kyoto Institute of Technology (KIT). We take part in the Student Formula SAE Competition of Japan that is held once a year. Each year we design and build a formula-style single-seater racing car to enter the competition. The team was formed from volunteers in the automotive club of KIT in 2005. We’ve competed every year for the last 12 years.
Takahama: How many students are on the team currently and are they largely undergrads, grads or a mix?
Kishi: Currently there are 45 people on the team, both undergraduates and graduates. The undergraduates run the team and build the cars, while the graduates act as advisors. The majority of our members are studying mechanical engineering, but we also have people from the applied chemistry, design and architecture, electronics, and information science programs.
Takahama: How is the team funded and what types of tools are available to the team on campus?
Kishi: The university supplies us with 50% of our funds, another 40% is from membership fees, and 10% from sponsoring companies. Most of the work is performed at a workshop set up on campus. We use software provided by our sponsors like Altium for design and analytical work.
Takahama: What accomplishments would you say the team is most proud of, and what are your aspirations for the future?
Kishi: Our team won the Student Formula SAE Competition of Japan for the first time in 2012. We won in 2016 and 2017 consecutively, for a total of three times so far. This puts us in the top rank of winners at the competition, something our team is very proud of.
Our aim is to continue to be a winning team over the long term, so we intend to come up with ideas to make that possible and to make our team even stronger. One thing we are considering is the use of a non-gasoline engine, in other words an electrically-powered motor, for our electrical team. We are in the process of preparing a test vehicle powered by electricity as a part of that.
We will compare it with our current car to see what the advantages and disadvantages are.
Takahama: How many members do you have on your electrical sub-team, what is your major at your university (please provide the name), and how far are you in your studies?
Kishi: Our electrical team has four second-year undergraduates, one third-year undergraduate, and one graduate in a master's program, for a total of six people. It's a bigger number than other teams in Japan, but less than that of teams overseas. All the members of the electrical team multi-task for circuit design, board design and building, programming and so on for the vehicle.
I’m a third-year student majoring in information science.
Takahama: What are the major or unique challenges the electrical team faces in designing circuit boards and electrical systems for a racing car?
Kishi: Durability of the board itself is an issue. Our team’s car runs on a single-cylinder engine, but it suffers more vibration than multi-cylinder engines or electrical motors. We've had problems like cracks forming in the soldering of tall parts leading to bad contacts. There also isn’t much space to place electrical components on the car, which itself is very small, so we have to make the board as compact as possible.
Takahama: How many different types of circuit boards have been designed by the electrical team?
Kishi: There are five types of circuit boards on board the car when it races in the competition. Before the race, we repeatedly revise the designs to correct faults impacting on performance. We also designed in parallel sensor modules for measurement, communications modules for telemetry, vehicle ECUs and transmissible loggers.
Takahama: Please tell about the contest “Student Formula”. Where and when is this year's competition? What is the goal of this year?
Kishi: The Student Formula SAE Competition of Japan for 2018 will be held at ECOPA (Ogasayama Nature and Sports Park) in Kakegawa, Shizuoka, over five days from September 4 to 8. Static testing is held on the first two days to check the vehicle design and documentation on manufacturing costs and so on. Then for the remaining three days the cars are dynamically tested by being actually driven. We want to gain a victory in this year’s competition so that we can become the first team ever to win it three years in a row.
Takahama: how do you think this experience will help you in future careers?
Kishi: The goal of Formula Student is to get students involved in practical manufacturing. University curriculums offer many opportunities to learn by theory, but without putting what we learn to actual use, most of that knowledge is left untouched.
I think the real benefit of Formula Student is that we can take things we learned in lectures and put them to work with our hands.
This opportunity to output what we learned as students will definitely be useful in whatever careers we pursue.
Takahama: What do you find most helpful about Altium Designer?
Kishi: Our team has been designing and building PCBs from three years ago. When we used ECAD we found problems like being unable to collaborate with MCAD, difficulties in designing high frequency circuits, and a lack of simulator features.
While we were looking for an alternative we found a trial version of Altium Designer. It not only dealt with those problems, it also impressed us for the detailed settings for design rules and the smartness of its active route, so we decided to make use of it.
Takahama: What are the challenges? Please also tell us how Altium Designer helped your project this year?
Kishi: The prominence of PCB design faults is a major issue to deal with. The types of faults were very simple, like mechanical interference between parts or footprint design flaws, but with ECAD it was extremely hard to find them at the design stage.
We have high hopes that Altium Designer will make a big contribution to eliminating these faults.
As I mentioned earlier, we’re working on a prototype of an electric vehicle now, so we’re designing boards with much higher voltage and power circuits than we’ve handled before. The number of boards we have to design is enormous. Altium Designer's many features will help to reduce design times while lifting the quality of these boards.
Takahama: Thank you very much for your time today. We hope to hear good news — three consecutive wins at Student Formula this year! Good luck!