Since the last Team Update in January, a lot has happened. If the autumn semester is fast, then the spring semester is accelerating as swiftly as our racecar. To many, it feels like the introductory bootcamp in September was yesterday. However, we’re more than halfway through the project year and have made incredible progress both as a racecar-building team and as individuals. Let’s have a look at some of the things each group has done since the beginning of 2023.
In February, we held our first admission period for next year’s team. We are looking for the next generation of Board members and group leaders. Admitting new leaders one semester ahead of our main admission allows them to obtain valuable experience about the organization and their positions before welcoming their group members. They are able to shadow the current leaders and learn all the ins and outs of the everyday lifestyle of a Revolve NTNU member. They are also able to attend the car testing and competitions in the summer, gaining even more experience especially in the logistics required to run a team in such a fast-paced environment.
Parallelly with the admission period, we held our annual career fair, RevolveDay, at NTNU campus Gløshaugen. We are grateful for all participating sponsors, visiting students, and our main presenter, Joe Jones from WAE Technologies. You can read more about how the event unfolded in this blog post.
Besides testing and soldering PCBs (printed circuit boards), the Embedded Electronics group has been working on a new inverter. The inverter system has not been changed since 2019, but the development of a new version started in 2021. Now, 2023 is the year. We are proud of how several years of technological advancement is resulting in the implementation of an inverter that saves space and is more easily constructed and deconstructed. This will save us crucial time when debugging the system. We are also looking forward to seeing how the new inverter will perform on track.
Power Systems is thrilled to have found a new way of fastening our battery cells. The new system saves us 200 g. In comparison, a cup of granulated sugar also weighs 200 g. Such weight might not sound like a lot, but for a racecar, weight is everything. In order to be the fastest on track, you have to be lightweight but not at the cost of the structural aspect. Since the beginning of Revolve NTNU’s existence, the organization has been shaving off grams racecar by racecar. Additional weight could make the difference between pole positions or reaching the pole at all. Just as every member contributes to the success of the team, every car part counts in the journey of achieving that success.
After finishing their last CAD (computer aided design) check and design simulations, Aerodynamics has been busy milling molds, learning how to make machine drawings and bond. They have also learned about the machining process of the car parts and performed an aerodynamic sensitivity study. The process of making an aerodynamic element, such as the front wing, rear wing and more, can be summed up into about 16 steps. We will not go into further detail in this text, but one thing is for sure: every step must be executed with high precision in order for the final product to perform as simulated.
Our Chassis group went to the facilities of one of our main sponsors – Kongsberg Gruppen – to produce the racecar’s monocoque and main hoop. Additionally, they produced and tested anti intrusion plates (AIPs). These plates are intended to prevent any foreign objects from entering the chassis during an impact where the impact attenuator (IA) is damaged. Once back in Trondheim, you could feel the air fill with excitement. Having something in the workshop that starts looking like a racecar certainly makes the whole project seem more real. The racecar is no longer just pixels on a screen. It’s actually tangible.
Similarly to the other groups in the Mechanical Department, Suspension & Drivetrain has learned about machining and making machine drawings. Amongst other things, they have already started developing a gearbox concept for next year’s racecar. With input from fellow members and our strong alumni network, we are looking forward to seeing how our gearbox can advance.
For Driver Interface, time has been spent working on the emergency brake system (EBS) for the driverless aspect of the racecar. This is a mechanical fail-safe brake system triggered by the detection of an unsafe state or if the remote emergency system (RES) is triggered. The group has also worked on assembling the pedal box, casting heel and toe caps, and bonding the firewall.
Running simulations on how our racecar will perform in various scenarios with different setups aids us in making critical design choices. Optimizing these simulations is part of the responsibility of the Control Systems group. Since January, they have researched and discussed how to make our simulators simpler, faster and more iterable. Amongst other things, they have implemented torque vectoring in our simulators, and are currently implementing aero maps in our simulators and developing an interface between our torque vectoring system and VCU (vehicle control unit). So far, they have achieved a 96% reduction in runtime when scaling correctly for the lap time simulator – an incredible achievement.
Revolve NTNU’s racecars generate considerable amounts of data. The information from the numerous sensors and controls of the car are essential in monitoring, diagnosing and configuring the racecar from production to competition. The data is key in optimizing the future racecar designs. With such specific requirements, no commercial solution is sufficient. That’s why our 2017 Software Development team built Analyze, a WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation) application, providing essential tools for data acquisition and analysis. Since then, the app has been invaluable. However, over the years, the complexity has increased at the cost of the software reliability. Therefore, this year’s Data Engineering group has worked on developing a descendant of Analyze. The alpha release has already enlightened areas of improvement, and soon, the beta testing will begin. We are enthusiastic about how the new software will complement groups across the organization’s departments and elevate the racecar.
Earlier in the project year, the organization decided it was time to migrate from ROS1 to ROS2. ROS (Robot Operating System) is an open-source set of software libraries and tools useful for the creation of robotic systems and intended to accelerate and enhance the process. ROS1 was created in 2007 and the last version was released in 2020, with an EOL (end of life) scheduled for 2025. In order to get ahead of the game, Autonomous Systems has successfully migrated Revolve NTNU’s ROS1 system to ROS2. After promising and successful research and discussions throughout the project year, we are looking forward to incorporating recurrent neural networks (RNN) for our state estimation. With state estimation being one of the essential tasks of an autonomous system, used in localization, object tracking, mapping and more, it’s safe to say that trying out a new method that has the potential to perform better than its predecessor is exciting. The new advancements in our autonomous systems will take our racecar to the next level.
Last week, they attended the Formula Student team e-gnition’s Autonomous Racing Workshop (ARWo). Read all about it in this blog post.
Besides their regular positions in various groups, the drivers have continuously worked on improving their lap times in our very own driving simulator, as well as keeping their physique fit to race. As with any project, you are bound to make mistakes every now and then. Our drivers analyze their faults but don’t dwell on them. They pick up where they left off and get back to practicing. Even the smallest of improvements contribute to overall progress. The Formula Student racetracks are marked by cones, and it can be challenging to find the sweet spot where you drive as fast as possible but don’t hit any cones. This preparatory simulation training lays the foundation for the real racing we will do in the summer.
To sum up, the 2023 team has come a long way. The days previously filled with desktop work have been switched out with long days at the workshop. The excitement of putting physical parts – designed and produced by ourselves – together and seeing a racecar take form surpasses the feeling of exhaustion. With each passing day, the Unveiling inches closer. We are delighted to soon be able to showcase how dedication, passion and innovation have come together in the form of a magnificent racecar ready to fight amongst the world’s leading teams.