How to Work on Your Vehicle During A Pandemic?

When COVID hit, no one knew exactly what the next 12? 18? months of school would look like, and as we drew closer to the beginning of the 20-21 year, it quickly became clear that we needed to adapt to our changing reality. In this series of articles, I’ll be exploring how the various build teams at Olin have adapted to this virtual teaming process. The uniqueness of Olin stems from hands-on learning in every aspect of life, including extra-curriculars. But it’s not that simple anymore. 

Project teams like Olin Electric Motorsports (also known as Formula) have quickly adapted their standard operating procedures to still create a meaningful experience for team members. Coming into the fall semester, one of the key objectives of the team was knowledge transfer. “We saw that a lot of the vehicle knowledge was concentrated among upperclassmen”, said Sophomore Sreenidhi Chalimadugu, the current project manager.

Returning team members focused on sharing their specialties with new members so that the knowledge was spread throughout the team, helping create longevity for the team. Although they couldn’t physically execute these concepts, the team worked out their ideas virtually through problem sets and virtual projects.

The electrical subteam’s “Car Talk” virtual lesson last spring

The electrical subteam’s “Car Talk” virtual lesson last spring.

And how are we supposed to work on our vehicle? Both the mechanical and electrical subteams took on advanced research projects where they worked on a specific aspect of the car.  Topics ranged from accumulator thermal analysis, lab time simulations, and aerodynamics to high voltage power supplies, telemetry system, and working to re-vamp firmware. These projects allowed the team to build a foundation of research that will help them improve the car when the team is able to start working in the shop again.

However, Formula isn’t just about building a car, it’s also about the connections you build along the way. Close interactions are a lot harder to create virtually than in-person, so the team introduced the concepts of Sibbs into their own structures. Every new member was matched with a returning member who would act as a mentor and someone they could go to with any problems, technical and non-technical. Doing this helped the newer members feel more comfortable and like they had truly become a part of the team. This Sibb program has also been coupled with biweekly “cabin family” bonding time which encouraged members to relax, play games and just have fun together. 

Members of the 2020-21 team cheering for faculty and staff as part of a “thank you” video

Members of the 2020-21 Olin Electric Motorsports team cheering for faculty and staff as part of a recent “thank you” video.

This semester, while the electrical subteam plans to continue with advanced research projects, building on their work from last semester, the mechanical subteam, still focused on knowledge transfer, wants to take a more hands-on approach and focus their energy on projects. These projects will be completed in various ways ranging from sending equipment to members and work orders, to pure design.