How Analytics is Driving the ADFA Racing Team

SAP is embarking on a second year of sponsorship by providing analytics support to the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) Formula SAE Racing Team. These students design and build a race car and learn to manage the team as a commercial operation to compete against other universities’ racing teams. What makes them particularly talented is they do it as an extra-curricular activity despite much of their study down-time being taken up with their military training.

The 2018-19 car, which will be used in competition in December at Winton Motor Raceway, Victoria, was unveiled recently at a Sponsor Drive day. The students presented various innovations that they believe could take them from an impressive 6th overall in 2017 to hopefully top 5 this year. Incoming Team Captain, OFFCDT Miguel Vila, expressed at the event:

“The Academy Racing Team’s latest vehicle, SP18 is one of our most competitive so far, and we are very thankful of the continued support and encouragement from our sponsors. Especially SAP, who prove a valuable partner with their work on analysing data from the car’s sensors. We look forward to working with them to continue our development into the future.”

From explorations in our first year of collaboration, the analytics component of our relationship is looking to support the team with the following three mini projects. These could help with the upcoming event in December, and importantly will inform development of the 2019-20 car:

  • Understanding influence factors for Lambda deviation: analysing air-fuel ratio in consideration of multiple data inputs at a point in time. The analysis will help the team to understand impacts on overall performance, allowing them to fine tune the system. Preliminary analysis has already identified a previously unknown influence factor.
  • Driver behaviour analysis: development of a solution prototype for post-racing review and analysis of drivers’ behaviour and related car telemetry parameters. This will analyse timestamped and precisely geo-located video streams against timestamped telemetry data to understand what behaviours (e.g. throttle position, gear selection) are optimal at what points of the track.
  • Engine vibration analysis to assess optimum tuning of the engine for reduction in vibration for greater performance.

The team’s academic supervisor and Visiting Fellow at UNSW Canberra, Steve Pender, is also keen to explore analytical support to a 4th Year Honours thesis. Many of the students choose a research thesis that relates directly to the Racing team, e.g. increasing the performance of a sub-system of the car. When asked about the benefits for students of involvement in the racing team, Steve commented:

“The FSAE program gives the students a unique opportunity to apply their engineering theory to a real-world situation. They put their technical knowledge into practice and experience the consequences of good (and sometimes not so good) engineering practice. They also experience real world problems such as constrained resources, competing and changeable requirements, and personnel issues. Overall the students become better engineers which is good for Defence, industry and the country as a whole.”  

I’ve been with several colleagues at two Sponsor Drive Days this year. They walk away feeling proud of the team and inspired by the enthusiasm and talent of the students. The Formula SAE model with the support of UNSW Canberra and ADFA, and sponsors like ourselves, gives the students a fantastic opportunity to learn through practical application and experience.

We’d like to thank those team members who are moving on post studies and wish them every success for their military careers.Best of luck to the team at the Formula SAE event in December, we hope our sponsorship can help build success and we look forward to greater levels of analytics support as the relationship grows.

This article was originally published on Linkedin.