Interview – Ampera Racing

Introduce your team briefly.

Founded in 2012, in a city in the south of Brazil called Florianópolis, Ampera Racing is a competition team in the EV category based at Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC). At the time of its foundation, the electric mobility discussion wasn’t categorically present in Brazil, so the purpose of the founding group was mainly to study and to practice the engineering behind electric cars. However, nowadays, not only this theme has been even more discussed in the country, but also Ampera has grown. Our mission is to boost the expansion of electric mobility through an influential event and high-performance electrical prototypes. And our vision is to be a reference in the expansion of Latin American electric mobility, developing great leaders for a more sustainable world.

How did the cancellation of the formula student competitions impact your team?

As a Brazilian team, our competition only happens at the end of November, and by the first week of July we had the information that our event would be postponed to the first months of next year – we are still waiting for dates confirmation. Before that revelation, the uncertainties about our future have impacted negatively on us. The main difficulties that we have faced concerns about planning for the year and for the future. It was a lot harder to define our year’s objectives and drivers without knowing when we could use our workshop again or if we would have to finish the manufacturing of our prototype in late November. More than that, the understanding of how this year will impact the next seasons brings a complexity never confronted before. Aside from that we also had a very bad impact on our financial and sponsors situation. However, we have also used this time to dedicate ourselves to study and develop new projects in the team since our University has suspended the classes until now, and in that way, we have more time for the team.

How did your team deal with the situation, what challenges did you face and how did you resolve them?

As mentioned, our biggest struggle was regarding planning. To deal with it, we based ourselves on a McKinsey article and reanalyzed the entire 2020 strategic planning – this provides us an operating model that accommodates the extreme level of uncertainty of this season. As for the financial situation, we: developed a new task force focused on prospecting new sponsors, started to do our workshops on an online platform, and also have started a crowdfunding campaign. Besides these two challenges mentioned in the question above, we also had to manage the working from home condition. To do so, we adapted our online platforms (Slack, Podio, and GSuite) to support most part of our work. We established daily shifts in which all the team members work from home at the same time in a specific call for specific areas of work, thus it is possible to talk with whoever you want based on the call that the person will be during the work shift. Among a lot of other challenges faced, the last one worth mentioning is that all the uncertainties faced for our team led our members toward a short unmotivated period. Fortunately, the opportunity of participating in the FSOnline competition gave us not only certainty but also the motivation to represent Brazil in an international competition for the first time in Ampera’s history.

What will you do differently for the online event?

As mentioned, we have designed a prototype for this season in which, due to the Brazilian quarantine, will most likely have to suffer different adaptations and redesigns for its manufacturing. However, we had the opportunity to actually make use of our developed projects on an international competition. And that is probably the biggest difference between our participation at the online and presential Event, the prototype that we will present. Nevertheless, we believe that this difference is very important for us as future professionals because this is what engineering is all about: propose possible solutions and adapt to different contexts and limitations.

What is your biggest achievement in Formula Student so far?

The fact that we are participating in a Formula Student from outside of Brazil is already a big achievement for us. This is not only our first opportunity to join an international competition as a Brazilian representative, but also it is our first time receiving feedbacks from several judges from another engineering reality and country. Moreover, we also achieved a high level of productivity in June when we submitted our subscription. In one month we concluded the last details of our design and prepared all the documents that had to be sent. The engagement of our members to make this happen was also a key role factor to achieve all deadlines and presentations quality.

Do you believe the future of Formula Student can adapt to the COVID-19 crisis and how?

It is not ideal, but Formula Student has already proved the possibility to organize an online even. The biggest challenge is adapting the dynamic events to the profligacy measures, nevertheless, we believe that with discipline and order it is possible to develop a safe prototype manufacturing process and, with time, a secure return the presential dynamic events. More than that, although it has started as an adaptation to the COVID-19 reality, this online event has provided access to different teams from all around the world to affordably participate in the same competition. That perception can impact the future of Formula Student, maybe releasing a regular online static event to spread the formula student culture around the world.

What can the Formula Student organizing bodies do to help the struggling teams due to the current events?

The organizing bodies can help the struggling teams enlarging the communication channel between the teams and the companies, providing access to sponsors. And about this topic, a relevant disclaimer to be done is that this channel is a lot more restricted in other countries – such as Brazil. So a good way to think about this is to have an international comprehension of the situation. More than that, being available for questions and publishing information with considerable advance so the teams can organize themselves is already a big help. 8. Do you think there are any positive outcomes for the competition from the current situation? The main positive outcome is the time that the teams had gain. It is, obviously, a difficult situation considering that was not part of the planning, but if well used, this can make a big difference in the final prototype for the next competition. Moreover, the teams had also conquered a lot of experience, especially in management skills, to keep the team working. We believe that most of the teams will come out of this crisis stronger, resilient, and prepared for the new reality of the formula student culture.

Do you think it is beneficial for the teams to participate in an online competition and why?

As mentioned earlier, the fact that this is an online competition that provides access for teams that couldn’t afford to join such events, especially teams from outside Europe. This opportunity can be very beneficial for all the teams considering that they will have contact with different cultures and realities, providing a systematic view of engineering from all around the world. Additionally, it also provides networking for the participants and takes the next step to a more connected world.