Meet Your Judges: Lead Engineering Design Judge

1. Introduce yourself briefly.

My name is Harry Alexopoulos and I’m the Lead Engineering Design Judge in FSN. I was born and raised in Greece but I currently live in Germany. My field of expertise is related to the optimisation of manufacturing processes for the best possible quality of internal and external gears, mainly used in automotive sector.

2. How did your journey start with Formula Student?

It was back in 2010. Just after a month of my enrollment at the university, a friend of mine informed me about the existence of the formula student team. I found the prospect of being a member of the team interesting and I applied for it, knowing almost nothing about technical stuff, cars, etc. During my first six months in the team, I got involved in tasks related to transmission. Later, I was reassigned to the chassis team where I remained for the rest of my years in the team.

3. What inspired you to become a judge?

I was a team member for almost 4 years and thus, when the formula student experience was over for me, it felt really weird. I wanted to continue being a part of the competition and for this reason, I decided to become a design judge. Of course, nothing can replace the feeling of competing as a team member but it is also very interesting to see the formula student competition from a different perspective. From the first year as a design judge in FSN, I knew I wanted to participate again. I was really fond of my dual responsibilities; judging and at the same time helping the teams. I have been participating as a judge since 2017 and I’ll definitely continue to do so for the years to come.

4. In your opinion, what makes a high class Formula Student team?

For me, the process of knowledge transfer is by far the most important thing for a formula student team. With knowledge transferred throughout the generations of students, teams can achieve consistency in their results every year, something that makes them to stand out in the competition. We see students having none of experience of building a car, to be able to design and manufacture amazingly good-performing cars within a year or two after enrolled in an FS team. The documentation of the good and the bad engineering practices throughout the year in combination with a well organised hand over by the old members, is the key to success. Although FSN has a short history, we see many teams evolving and improving each year. As FSN Design Judging Team, we are always happy to receive questions from teams related to design aspects and thus, being a part of the knowledge transfer process too.

5. What advice would you give to participating teams?

Safety first: It might sound old-fashioned or classic but it is the most important aspect a team should take care of before, during and after the competition. The safety measures must be taken seriously, especially for the electric propelled vehicles. Surely the same applies also to us, the organisational part of the competition.

Test your car: Getting to know your car before competing is a must. Having run a lot of kilometers and getting accustomed to the car before the competition will definitely help the team get enough points at the dynamic events.

Prepare statics: Although static events give less points than the dynamic ones, they play a significant role in the final ranking of a formula student competition. Having a deep understanding of your design choices will make you score enough points, even if your design is not the fanciest one. On the other hand, a fancy design but a pure knowledge background of the students will result in a bad score.

6. What are the common mistakes you’ve noticed whilst being a judge?

Sometimes the necessary attention is not given to the basics. Skipping steps during a design process can result in bad design choices. Furthermore, students frequently tend to say that their design choices were made from alumni members and as a result they cannot justify them. It is honest, but unfortunately these teams cannot score well. That is mainly the reason why I think that knowledge transfer plays such a significant role in the success of a team.

7. How did you choose FSN?

I have been participating in FSN since the first year of its existence. In 2017, I heard that the competition will be held for the first time in the Netherlands, so I thought it would be really nice to see how such a competition is organized from scratch. We had the opportunity to more or less shape the format of the design event and some of the disciplines.

8. What is your favourite thing about FSN?

FSN combines a great level of professionalism and organisation with the fun part of a Formula Student event. Also, I really like its flat organisational structure which makes it easier for ideas to be heard and discussed.

9. What do you think will be the next big thing in Formula Student?

Currently many events push towards autonomous driving. From an engineering perspective, “driver gets modeled” is a very promising and interesting concept and no doubtfully, it expands the overall knowledge base and expertise of a team. For sure, since the human factor is not actively involved in the disciplines, the drivers’ feelings and reactions are not present. This by itself transforms a formula student competition and it will be really interesting to observe how competitions will evolve in the years to come.

10. What is the best thing and hardest thing about being a judge?

Βeing close to the formula student competition, speak to the students and get close to their cars, is by far the best thing about being a judge. The hardest thing is the time of the evaluation of the teams. Although we have scoresheets which break the process down to simpler steps, it is always difficult to assess a team. It takes us long to decide on the scoring as we want to cover every single aspect of the design. The days of the competition are sleepless for us, as we want to be as fair as possible to every team.