On a Wednesday in early November, Embedded Electronics was gathered at one of our office rooms, called Kairo. Considering the heat generated by their busy computers, it almost felt like being in the Egyptian capital. Desks were decorated with energy drink towers, the smell of take-away pizza was in the air, and you could sense the stress looming over their shoulders like dark clouds. It was the final day before sending their first batch of printed circuit board (PCB) designs for production at one of our long-time sponsors, Inission.
Just like Revolve NTNU, Inission is synonymous with teamwork and continuous innovation and improvement, and we both like a good challenge. They are the Nordic region’s leading total supplier and have helped companies develop and manufacture electronic and mechanical products of the highest quality for 35 years. Their extensive portfolio includes, amongst others, diagnostic systems for vehicles, medical technology and monitoring systems in aircrafts, boats, trains and forestry machines, as well as subsea products. They also support smaller and innovative companies.
Since the making of our second car, KA Aquilo R, in 2013, we have collaborated with PCB production, and they have held various courses, such as soldering and ESD courses. We are grateful for being able to come to their facilities at Løkken Verk, only an hour drive outside Trondheim. The close proximity contributes to more efficient communication, increased flexibility and shorter transports – it’s simply unbeatable.
Let’s return to our office. In the blink of an eye, the clock had passed midnight, and the group members found themselves alone at the office. With the mobile air conditioners providing a breath of fresh air, the energy fuel of snacks from the office kiosk, and the help and encouragement of each other, they were pushing through to get everything done. There were still designs to double check, issues to fix and files to export. By the time they were finished, the clock had struck 5 in the morning. The rest of the team woke up the next day to a plethora of Slack messages with the group's self-made memes about their stress and frustrations, as well as a final message from their group leader reading “Great job tonight! Don’t worry about showing up early at the office tomorrow. Rather sleep in and meet up in the afternoon.”
A week later, it was time to solder circuit boards for our new inverter. Eskil Mogstad (R&D at Control Systems) and William Moriggi (Inverter Development at Embedded Electronics) make up an inseparable duo, and together, they work on our in-house developed inverter. On a regular day, you would most likely find them at the inverter testbench at our workshop; sketching on a whiteboard, drinking coffee and tea, expressing frustrations about the process and last but not least, testing. If you were to walk into their little corner of the workshop, you might find them a little crazy. But don’t we all get a bit madly obsessed with a project we have a burning passion for?
Eskil and William’s day started bright and early at 5 am. It’s not an easy task to leave the comfort of the bed at this hour when it’s pitch black outside and the morning temperatures are moving closer to 0 Celcius day by day. Fighting through the morning grogginess, they made it to Inission Løkken and had their first cup of coffee at 7 am. After a long day of picking and placing components and several cups of coffee downed, it was time to head back to Trondheim. This was just the beginning of the production phase at Inission Løkken.
Fast forward to the present day, March 2023, Embedded Electronics has gone through system testing & debugging, a second round of schematics and PCB layout reviews and software development. Before going into the PCB production, the group had to count the component reels currently in-house. This would normally take 6-7 hours but with the help of Inission Løkken, the time was reduced to about half an hour.
Now, being well into the production phase of the racecar, the everyday Revolve NTNU life feels different. The smell of fast food in the air has been swapped out by excitement. Flip flops for shuffling around at the office have been replaced with safety shoes and workwear fit for a day at the workshop. The 3D models on the computers have come to life. For each day passing by, the racecar looks more and more like a racecar.
This week, Embedded Electronics is going back to Inission Løkken to solder the PCBs that eventually will be mounted inside the racecar. Just like Eskil and William’s day, this workday will start bright and early. For each panel side, soldering paste will be spread across, components will be placed, and then the panel will be baked in a soldering oven. This is the first of several days at Løkken, and we are thankful for their continuous support and open arms at their facilities.
As many faiths foretold, Judgement Day finally came for Trondheim’s fiercest group of automotive competitors. As one would likely wager, there are several magnitudinous events throughout Revolve NTNU’s dotted annual schedule. These are frequently internal affairs, like our computer-aided design (CAD) checks and schematic reviews, belonging to respectively the mechanical and electrical departments. In the same vein, our numerous phases of production are meticulous while also firmly deadlined to ensure our project’s preparedness for the rigorous testing season. Given Revolve NTNU’s well-documented itinerary, one could be forgiven for questioning why something as comparatively demotic as a simple career fair would garner such intense effort and diligence from a group of well-greased engineers.
To understand RevolveDay’s significance and the stir it evokes from our team, entails understanding Revolve NTNU on a more practical level. There are several components adding up throughout a project year to shape Revolve NTNU into a consistent and respected player in a heavily saturated, international game. Since our team’s contracts are annual, there’s a demand for facilitational stabilizers that ensure each year’s team is as driven to perform among the best in the world as the last. Among these, major credit belongs with our alumni. The cooperation between each project year’s members and the veterans of the organization is necessarily tight and open. A finished tenure in Revolve NTNU carries responsibility, as your acquired experience and knowledge is invaluable to the likely green student about to assume your office. Hence why our fall semester is landmarked by our Concept and Design Reviews, presentational affairs where each group unveils their plans, goals and strategies for the coming project year. Our alumni serve as advisory units, providing direction to the bright new ideas that yearly contracts expedite.
However, despite their frequent best efforts, our alumni are ultimately no longer part of the organization and have their own priorities. The pressure to achieve is on the students in the arena whom, in our most intensive periods, spend long hours of our week building a machine that pushes even further past the limits already broken. Combining nearly a dozen professions into a single product is as rigorous as one would imagine, requiring firm organizational structure and clear communication. All of it occupying the available pockets in the already flush timetables required by the diverse degrees housed in Norway’s most technologically ambitious university.
I digress. Revolve NTNU’s project bears its fruit through an ambitious and laborious process intended to wave its banner among the world’s finest, and we would not exist if not for the generous support we receive from our backers. You could not point to a single piece on any of our cars from our decennial fleet that wasn’t welded, bolted and mounted in place through the means given to us. What would be an impossible project is made reality through the capital, tools, workwear, components, competence and services provided by those motivated to help us achieve.
As a student organization, our own means are humble, and RevolveDay is the greatest return we offer. Time will likely keep reminding us that there’s no demography more forward-thinking and liable to solving the problems of tomorrow than the educated youth, organized in universities. If there is a “tomorrow” for the technological companies looking to entrench themselves in a perennially competitive market, the current academia will doubtlessly be part of it. RevolveDay is therefore more than a simple gathering. For the attending, it is an opportunity to establish themselves as attractors in the most essential market of all. Our gratitude manifests itself in our extensive efforts to make RevolveDay worth the while of every visiting benefactor.
It is easy to mistake Formula Student for a race, given the association of the word “formula” with the explosive promotional material and star power of Formula One. Likewise, Revolve NTNU can be misidentified as the “guys that build a car.” Revolve NTNU’s real product is competence, and Formula Student is the arena in which we’re given a platform to showcase it. Revolve NTNU builds careers, providing firm footholds for career aspirations in a bazaar that grows increasingly saturated. Every employment signed by future Revolvers through their term can trace its roots to the essential pieces that make the organization, and there are few equal to the sponsors that dedicate their means towards seeing our vision to the finish line.
Among all of Revolve NTNU’s technical divisions, the Control Systems group (CS) might just be the most difficult to understand. Whereas electrical and mechanical groups, such as Embedded Electronics and Suspension & Drivetrain, are directly responsible for building the things you can see and touch on the car, the influence of CS is not as visible. However, when the car is built and all systems are working, it is CS' responsibility to turn a fast car into a monster.
CS is generally responsible for the dynamic behavior of the car, i.e how the car moves when driving. Hardware was an important responsibility in the early days when the group designed parts of the suspension. The current group focuses predominantly on software with the core responsibilities being:
- The development of the Torque Vectoring algorithm, which controls the four in-wheel motors simultaneously, dramatically increasing the cornering, acceleration and braking capabilities of the car.
- The development of Modelling and Simulation software, such as a lap time simulator, which allows us to plug in a mathematical model of our car and accurately predict our performance at the competition.
- General R&D in the field of vehicle dynamics, developing both hardware and software in packages such as adaptive dampers and ground speed sensors.
- Race engineering. Real-time sensor data monitoring during testing and competitions, race strategy and driver assistance.
From these areas of responsibilities, one would be correct in assuming that CS is tightly connected to the field of cybernetics. Group roles change from year to year depending on the goals that are set during the planning phase, but a deep intuition and understanding of dynamic systems is a key trait that is developed by all group members. As a member of CS, you have the opportunity to not only enhance your engineering skills but also apply your theoretical knowledge to real-world challenges. For example, the laboratory assignments in the Linear Systems Theory and Optimal Control courses served as a strong influence in the development of Torque Vectoring. While the system models were different, the core ideas remain unchanged.
The effect of CS on the car becomes very visible once the car starts driving. While safety systems such as traction control and ABS are often taken for granted in modern consumer cars, CS develops these systems from the ground up. This allows us to build a lot more into these systems than you would find in a normal car. For example, our torque vectoring (TV) algorithm uses individual motor control to actively make the car turn and accelerate faster. Let’s take a closer look at TV and how it employs Linear Quadratic control.
TV is a program that allows us to vary the torque allocated on each wheel, where controlling the rotational motion around the car’s vertical axis is the main focus. To achieve this, a controller that compares the rotational requests from the driver with the angular velocity measurements has been made. We can increase this angular velocity by giving the outside wheels more torque and decrease it by giving more torque to the inside wheels. This angular velocity is called the yaw rate, and the “effort” to change the angular velocity is called the yaw moment, see Figure 1.
Control based on such a comparison is what we call feedback control, meaning that the difference between the requested yaw rate and the measured yaw rate will determine the yaw moment the controller outputs. A focus of this year has been to develop and test a variety of such controllers, where the LQR has been one of the concepts.
The LQR is a well-known control method used to regulate the behavior of a linear system. The objective of the LQR is to find the optimal control input, the yaw moment in our case, that will drive the system from its initial state to a desired state in the most efficient way. To do this, we define a cost function that measures the deviation of the desired state and the magnitude of the control input. The cost function is then minimized using the Riccati equation, resulting in a solution that provides the optimal control input. This means that the controller finds the optimal control input by balancing controller performance and the magnitude of the motor force.
To further improve performance, a reference feedforward was added. Feedforward control takes into account the future desired output, and uses it to pre-compensate the control signal. This results in a faster response to the system, which improves its overall performance. In the case of the car, adding a reference feedforward can ensure that the car converges to the desired reference in steady-state.
Feedback control is known for its accuracy, but can have slower response times. On the other hand, feedforward control is fast in response, but may not be as precise as feedback control. With the implementation of this controller, we hope to achieve a fast and accurate system that improves the car's ability to turn quickly. If done correctly, this will entail a decrease in lap times and improved overall car performance.
While mechanics and electronics have long been the focal point of racecar development, the role of software is rapidly growing in importance. Our Software department is a key player in determining the success of our racecar on the track. In this blog post, we'll delve into the crucial role software plays in the competitive world of Formula Student and how our team is leading the way. Get ready for an exciting look into the world of software in high-speed racing!
At Revolve NTNU, the Software department comprises three distinct groups: Control Systems, Autonomous Systems, and Data Engineering.
The Control Systems group is all about race performance. Using advanced estimation- and control theory, they enhance the traction, handling and stability of the car and develop systems to assist the driver. The group develops multiple driving modes with very different characteristics to make the car behave optimally in both a tight corner and a straight line. Control Systems also does modelling and simulation, aiming to build an accurate digital representation of our car. Through simulations, we can see the effects of different car parameters and setups early in the design phase, helping us make good design choices without physical testing.
The Autonomous Systems group ensures the car can drive on its own, without a driver. An intelligent autonomous race car must be able to map and perceive its surroundings to navigate unknown territories using LiDAR, SLAM (Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping) and path planning. The group develops the logic that works as the car's eyes, ears and brain, enabling it to understand its environment. In other words, the group converts sensor input to meaningful information about the vehicle and its environment. In addition, the group is responsible for the car’s autonomous control system, which enables the car to act on this sensor input and drive from A to B.
Lastly, the Data Engineering Group at Revolve NTNU is a vital part of the organisation's operations, providing a competitive edge through enhanced data analysis. They are responsible for ensuring the accessibility and security of the organisation’s data and facilitating its analysis by developing bespoke tools. This includes overseeing our real-time telemetry system, and our data storage solutions, and developing data analysis tools for members from all departments of the team. In other words, the Data Engineering group is responsible for providing the organisation with the right data at the right time to make informed decisions and drive the team's success.
The Agile development approach, used by all our groups, allows us to respond quickly to changes and fosters collaboration, communication, and teamwork among our team members. This not only helps us achieve our common goals but also prepares our members for the industry standard!
Thanks to the wide variety of tasks we work on, the software department at Revolve NTNU is a dynamic and exciting place to be. From writing code in C, C++, C#, Python, and MATLAB to developing software solutions that meet the unique needs of each project, there is never a dull moment in our department. The diversity of programming languages and projects means that our team members are constantly learning and growing, which makes the software department a great place to be for those who want to expand their skills and be a part of cutting-edge technology in the world of Formula Student racing!
Revolve NTNU is a student organization that is thoroughly reliant on its market to survive. Without sponsors’ funding, we have no capital. Without their means of production, we have no car. Without students applying for us every year, there is no team to begin with. The Marketing department is chiefly responsible for generating interest in Revolve NTNU’s brand, and maintaining it. Revolve NTNU’s three primary markets are students, the industry and our competitors.
The pieces that make up Revolve NTNU’s public corpus can in turn be divided into a few rough-hewn parts: social media, branding and our public events. “Rough-hewn,” because Revolve NTNU would never function if not as a team. Your position in the organization will endow a field of responsibility, but it’s in the liaison between members where our team emerges as one of the best competitors in Formula Student.
Social media shoulders Revolve NTNU’s image for the majority of our year. No matter our activity level, most of our hours are spent at our offices and workshop. In our physical absence from the public, social media is where our presence is steadily maintained. Between flashing fierce cars from various stylish angles, our feed is kept updated throughout the numerous phases of our project, and anyone interested can easily hop on their phone and find insight into Revolve NTNU’s current undertakings. We host our events, and in advance announce our determined exoduses to campus for in-person communication. Social media also plays a crucial role in our services to sponsors in return for their contributions. As a student organization, publicity towards Trondheim’s flourishing academia is one of the primary benefits we offer our benefactors.
You’d be surprised how much information you can cram into a simple poster the size of a cutting board. Our Graphic Designer is responsible for sustaining a consistent visual identity for our team, that our work can be easily recognized and remembered. In the critical Admission phase, posters of Revolve NTNU’s open positions dominate campus walls, and flyers are passed to our stand visitors with information regarding our four departments consisting of ten groups. The Admission process entails a great deal of particulars passing to a vast number of people with varying degrees of insight into Revolve NTNU’s métier, and a consistent and pleasing design ensures our communicatees’ impression of a serious and structured organization.
Revolve NTNU was made by students for students, and is therefore reliant on a steady campus presence. As efficient as social media’s communication platform has become, it’s yet to surpass simple eye contact and the dynamism of conversation. Throughout our year in Revolve NTNU, we dedicate time away from our project to visit campus in unison. An established tradition within our organization is our annual “F1 in F1” event, where we book the F1 lecture hall at Gløshaugen to stream Formula 1’s season finale with open doors. A typically popular event, the lecture hall’s size comes well into service as it can hold a few hundred people. Such an event is fun, thematically appropriate and a worthwhile way for our team to relax while maintaining Revolve NTNU’s presence in one of its most important markets.
In terms of logistical pressure and sheer attendance, none of our events remotely approach our own career fair, serviceably named RevolveDay. This is an exclusive opportunity for our larger sponsors to visit NTNU’s campus, booked to make room for stands, activities, competitions, presentations and interviews. A full-day affair, attendance has typically numbered more than 25 companies and well over a thousand students. This is our most important return to our sponsors for their contributions to our project. A few months later, our annual Unveiling is held. A formal event, our department leaders and select sponsors deliver speeches in celebration of our project year’s achievements. Towards the end of the ceremony, our brand-new car is revealed. Following a few more speeches, what comes next typically entails full glasses and dance, as a final spree in preparation for testing season and exams. While the Marketing department occupies the director’s chair for these events, RevolveDay and the Unveiling remain team efforts, and cooperation is essential for a rewarding experience.
Our social media, branding and events entail a great deal of personalization and nuance as a result of being governed by a group of individuals, but it’s important to remember their collective purpose. Revolve NTNU is a serious, fiercely competitive organization that seeks to solidify itself as one of the world’s premier Formula Student teams, and the Marketing department ensures its reputation remains as such.
The Marketing department is comparatively small next to the other three, which all consist of at least two groups. As Head of Marketing, your leadership skills are therefore chiefly operative over administrative. Along with your organizational obligations of attending meetings and writing referendums, you will work closely with each of your department members to ensure a united effort in furthering Revolve NTNU’s public profile. Your vision is paramount, and can only become reality through clear communication and office presence. Your social skills will inhabit the driver’s seat as you lay direction, sow inspiration and solve conflict within your tightly knit department. An organization is only as functional as everyone believes it to be. That responsibility falls on you.
The leaves have gone from green to orange, the wind has picked up and the rain pitter patters here in Trondheim. Autumn is settling in, and judging by the colder temperatures, it’s not long until winter comes. Inside our office building, the heat created by our many computers and laptops are keeping us warm. Here, you’ll hear rapid keyboard typing, frequent mouse clicks, and many frustrated sighs when their software crashes. You’ll find people playing table tennis with the most intense competitive looks in their eyes, as well as people enjoying their first, second and third meal of the day by the dining table. You’ll see people helping each other, working together, and maybe most importantly: laugh and have fun. You can truly feel the team spirit!
Let’s wind back to the beginning of Team 2023.
We officially started in September and went through an intense two-week Bootcamp. Here, we dedicated as much time as possible to getting to know the project and Formula Student competition, the various groups and their systems, as well as the people. The learning curve is incredibly steep during this period, but the motivation and determination in each member is unmatched.
In addition to spending time at the office and workshop to learn, we also dedicated time to socialize and make everyone feel like a part of the team. The first weekend of the Bootcamp, we went on a cabin trip. Some might even call it a healing trip! Without reception, we could fully relax and set the stress and hustle and bustle of our everyday lives aside. The days were filled with canoeing, kayaking, hikes and toasting marshmallows over bonfires, as well as cozy evenings with board and card games.
After Bootcamp, the team enters the Concept Phase. Here, everyone dives deep into their systems to get an understanding of what has been done before in order to make an informed decision on what to do for this year. We read past papers, explore documentation and talk to previous members/members who have been a part of the team for several years (alumni). At the end of this phase, everyone presents their proposed system concepts at Concept Review – a full weekend event for this year’s team and our alumni where everyone gets feedback on their concept. We are incredibly thankful for having many active alumni with us both in Trondheim and outside the city who are still deeply passionate about Revolve NTNU. Their knowledge, feedback and help not just during this time but throughout the year is essential for the evolution of the organization.
Now comes the Design phase. From mid October till the end of November, we take the feedback from Concept into account and keep improving our system designs. Day in and day out, we work together to design the best racecar possible. We review each other’s PCB schematics, we double check and triple check elements in CAD, we get to know codebases and so much more. At the end of October, we present our final designs at Design Review, and then, the real work starts.
This semester has been busy for our Marketing department as well. We went out to Trondheim Torg and had a full day of showcasing our driving simulator – our 2016 car GNIST. As we carried our racecar across the town square, people stopped and stared. Throughout the day, people of all ages came by to test their driving skills and get to know us better.
Additionally, we took our 2022 car AURORA out to town for a photoshoot! We went to Nidarosdomen, the old town bridge and the pier. Despite the typical autumnal Trondheim weather with its rain and gusts of wind, we successfully shot beautiful photos of our car and drivers.
Just a week later, we went to Oslo Motorshow with our 2019 car NOVA and 2022 car AURORA. Thank you for having us!