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Formula Student Goes Virtual in 2020

20 June 2020

FISITA has been supporting and promoting Formula Student worldwide for a number of years. We caught up with our friends at IMechE to find out more about how the current global pandemic has meant this year's event is going virtual: 

Formula Student goes virtual in 2020

While difficulties over ensuring the safety of all those involved forced the cancellation of the 2020 Formula Student event at Silverstone, the spirit of the competition is very much alive and the organising committee at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers has been working hard to bring as much of the competition online.

Taking place online on 23-26 July, student teams will still be able to present the results of their hard work, with the Design, Cost & Manufacturing, Business and FS-AI presentation events taking place in much the same format as usual. Judges will have the chance to quiz the presenting teams on their engineering choices during online meetings, with the top teams continuing to a final that will decide the winners of each category.

With social distancing brought on by COVID-19 posing a significant difficulty in running the traditional Dynamics Events at Silverstone, the team have opted for a two-part solution. As a result, the Acceleration and Skid-Pad events will be replaced by Lap-Time Simulations that will use a Multi-Body Dynamics Model and recreations of the courses used at Silverstone.

The competition organisers are also hosting online multiplayer competitive simulation races in Assetto Corsa using a variety of cars, including a realistic Formula Student vehicle, to test the skills of its drivers. This mirrors current trends in industry, where there has been a surge in popularity of e-sports races featuring drivers from Formula One and Formula E during the current lockdown.

So far, more than 80 teams have signed up to join this year’s virtual events, highlighting both the popularity and importance of the competition.

“Despite the difficulties posed by COVID-19, it is essential that we continue to develop alternative opportunities for young engineers to develop their skills and gain experience of real-world projects. As engineers are natural problem-solvers, we look forward to seeing how our competitors adapt to the new challenges in this year’s virtual events” said Lucy Killington, Project Manager of the UK Formula Student competition.

Taking the competition online has also had additional positive effects. New to this year’s roster of FS-AI events is the Simulation Development competition, which will evaluate students’ understanding of simulation within the autonomous vehicle development workflow and demonstrate their self-driving algorithms in detail. This is especially important while teams cannot access physical hardware and with the low bar to entry it is hoped that more universities who had not previously been involved can now do so, with the possibility of expanding the competition in the future if successful. 

Finally, new rule changes mean that all cars competing this year will be eligible to enter in 2021. As teams can use the feedback from this summer to improve all aspects of their vehicles, this should lead to a higher standard of entry for next year’s competition when it returns.

The Virtual Dynamic Events and Closing Ceremony on 25-26 July 2020 will be streamed online for engineers and Formula Student fans around the world to enjoy, to be updated on developments be sure to visit the Formula Student website or follow their Twitter, Facebook or Instagram social media channels.