Friday, 28 April 2017

The Shell Eco marathon by Job Baan

This blog post is not about lampbotics or lamp this is about my experience with a cool project that I wanted to share with you guys!!

One of the most important things that I found during my study is the work in projects and the teamwork that is involved with that. In my home university in the Netherlands we work a lot in projects and work together with mechanical engineers and management students. Even in first we have a big project with 6 mechanical engineers, 6 electrical engineers and 2 or 3 management students. 

One of the projects that I got into is the Shell Eco marathon.  A race that is organized by Shell, the purpose of this race is to develop a car and make the car run on either Hydrogen, Battery electric or petrol and not just drive on it, but drive as efficient as possible. The current record in the race is by the team from Lycée La Joliverie (France) at 3,410 km on the equivalent of a single litre of fuel.
Shell organises this event around the world on the different continents, Asia, America and Europe. The remaining continents participate in one of the three events. We take part in the Europe race as you can imagine. This year the race is in London from the 25th of May to the 28th of May, but for participant the event starts at the 21st of May. 

Our team

Whereas other universities have students working on this project/event full time, we only had people working on the project for a few hours a week. The first semester of this year the team consisted out of six Electrical engineering students, six mechanical engineers and two management students. The second semester the team E-students mainly moved on three new students joined the project team, two of the E-students stayed around to keep working on the project, the M-students (mechanical) kept working with the same group and the two management students were replaced by three new once. 

Working styles

The E-students are third years and use all their experience and a professional way of working at the project, whereas the M-students were second year students who barely worked in project. As well as less experience, they also had little to no guidance during the first few months of the project. This resulted in them having to figure everything out by themselves and not working in a similar structure as the E-students were. The management students did a part on Quality control at that moment and focussed a lot on maintaining quality and documenting everything so that next year there would be information to look at in the beginning of the project. The team was left headless so to say, the management students focussed a lot on the quality side of things and not so much on project management which was also expected from them. This was not different in the second semester with the new management students, but in their case, they didn’t get a chance to be team manager because one of the E-students took over management. During my semester, abroad I was little to a lot involved in the management of the team. In the Easter week, I went back to Netherlands to help with the project, it turned out that some of my friends wanted me to manage the project in that week, which I was not prepared for, but was fun and I can tell you, I was freaking exhausted… So, I had to use my lectures to catch up on some sleep ;). 

Experience with the group

This part is my personal experience and may not reflect the option of the hole group. There is no intention to blame or give someone a tough time, just my personal thoughts on team work and what we did and why it worked or didn’t work out.
With the electrical engineering students, we started the semester with a group meeting in which we discussed what plans for the semester were and how we planned on achieving those, a list was created with features and tasks that need to be done by the team. Because, we used “scrum” (where you plan, execute, demonstrate and review in two or three weeks) we had to divided all the big tasks in smaller parts that could be done in two weeks with roughly 10 – 16 hours a week. The process and the daily stand-up meetings we had been we informed everyone about the daily progress, problems and plans for tomorrow, were quick efficient and professionally executed. This resulted in an environment where people were highly motivated and dedicated to deliver and produce an excellent product, but also have a good laugh from time to time.


The mechanical engineering students didn’t really have a strategy at the start and didn’t knew where to aim for or what their objectives were during this project. This resulted in a slow start in which not a lot happened and the different teams got further apart as time went on. This also resulted in friction with the E-students, because they expected a more efficient and more professional working style than the lads could deliver.
The management students started two weeks later and didn’t knew what they got themselves into. They lacked a vision or a clear purpose as was expected from the by the different teams. Instead they worked on an archive to store all the files, which if you ask me, was not worth the effort they put and still doesn’t serve its purpose as it not ideal to work in the cloud with programs as solid works or Altium Designer.
Another aspect that affected the working of the different teams was that they were not working as a team, the last we of the first semester the team had a team building event, at this stage the electrical engineering were already moving on to the next thing and the effect of it was low and more a closure event than a team building. What I would suggest everyone to do whenever they start a project with an unfamiliar team, go and head out have a few pints, do some fun activities with each other and get to know everyone, by name and by working style. This could have saved us/me a lot of struggles and frustration that other and I had during the project.
This semester I am not in the Netherlands so it is hard to judge on the current process the team is going through, but in the week that I was in the Netherlands something interesting came to my attention, a lot fair few team members don’t care about the project, they just want to pass their modules and get a good grade with as little effort as possible. Normally I would understand this concept and be okay with it. But if you think about the fact that you work on a car, get to go to London and be at an international event and get all expense cover, I don’t understand how people can’t be not motivated to put in the effort. The lesson I took out of this was that even though the project might be extremely cool, or high end. There is always a chance that you have demotivated team members and the important thing to do then is make the best out of it with the other team members and don’t pay too much attention to them or the effort they put. You will never change them anyway 😊

But overall it has been a cool project and I have enjoyed working with all of the team members and look forward to the race this May in London. We have a long way to go before we have an properly driving car, but you will see us in London!! 

And finally our YAAAAAAY moment!! FIRST time driving with new systems!

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