Usually, the main concern university students care about during their years of study is to have fun, hang out with their friends, and enjoy the most of their happy and satisfying years. Yet, that was not the case with several Faculty of Engineering students from Cairo University. Creating a car to compete in an international competition was their ultimate dream, which they managed to make true.
Earlier this month, the Cairo University Racing Team won the most challenging award at the Formula student competition in Germany, winning the award for creating the car with the least number of outside inputs, including money and materials, at hand.
The team, consisting of 20 students all in their second and third years of university, competed with another 72 teams from all over the world, to successfully gain the title after several struggles to reach there.
“This was a dream to every one of us since we joined the Faculty of Engineering,” said team leader, Tarek Abo-Raya. “[It is] a dream that took us a year of non-stopping work to achieve.”
The Formula student competition requires the applying teams create cars that are capable of competing at in Formula One, but with the least possible design, cost and efficiency. There are minimum limits of specifications to be applied in the cars that teams have not to be waived.
The team spent a month intensely researching car design methods, to learn everything about the forms of applying the theories they learned in lectures into the real world environment.
“We divided ourselves into smaller teams, each to dig around about information on specific parts of the car,” Abo-Raya said. “This saved us a lot of time we needed for the real hard process of designing it.”
The elementary design was longer and harder work for the team, because it needed each member to build his design over the others.
“It’s the part in which everyone creates an enforceable vision of the part he has been studying for a long time. So we all had to wait until everyone is done with his own, to collect all the designs together in one piece,” Abo-Raya said.
When it came to applying the design to reality, the team never imagined the strategy they had in mind would be almost impossible to achieve in reality.
“The problems we faced at the manufacturing process were indescribable,” Abo-Raya said.
Several obstacles affected the team’s work, including having a difficult time finding the materials needed, meaning they had to import expensive parts within a small budget, and finding a mill to collect the pieces from. As a result, the team had to find alternative solutions to deadline for the competition in Germany.
“In Egypt, we don’t make any cars, so to find an interior manufacturing piece of the car or a worker to know how it’s created was a very hard thing to do,” Abo- Raya said. “We had to look for alternatives which less in cost, were more available, equally safe and good enough to be used for a car yet within the minimum budget we had.”
Even though there were two professors supervising the manufacturing process, the team had to learn everything on its own from what they already learned at university and an exhaustive search whilst attending their lectures and taking their exams at university.
“The passion we have for what we’re doing would make every moment of tiredness we felt joyful,” Abo-Raya said. “There would come days we wouldn’t sleep due to having an exam and working on the project in parallel, yet nothing really mattered.”
According to Abo-Raya, despite the fact that many of them gave up a huge part of the time they used to spend with their families and friends to keep up with the project, the love they had for their dream made everything else acceptable.
“Managing all the stress and tiredness, our technical director is the top of his class for this year,” he added.
After finishing the car ready for their trip to Germany, the team discovered they could not transfer the car in its final form on the plane. So they had to break it up into pieces and rebuild the whole car all over again at the camp, when they arrived at their final destination.
“All of the other teams’ cars went right straight to the competition except for ours, which came with us to the camp to put it back together to its original shape again,” Abo-Raya remembered. “It was raining, the weather was horrible and we were literally in the middle of the forest with no equipments at all, yet we managed to rebuild in only in one day leaving everyone astonished, even the team who won the first prize said they couldn’t do such a thing!”
The Cairo University Racing team did not win first place at the Formula student competition, yet the “most challenging team” was quite satisfying for them due to a “hard-to-overcome environment” as the judges described.
The team plans to continue recruiting members to join the competition next year with the dream of getting first prize. “For our first time, we are satisfied. Yet we aim for a brighter name for Egypt in the future,” Abo-Raya concluded.