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Design Judging Discussion

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schooter View Drop Down
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    Posted: Apr/15/2015 at 3:52pm

Hi Everyone,

I would like to open a discussion to provide students insight and advice for design judging. Please remember that I am only one of many design judges, I was involved in SAE as a student and I'm still learning.

My Background:

Just to simply introduce myself I’ll provide a quick background. I have been a SAE Baja design judge three times and have previously been invited to be trained as a FSAE judge at Lincoln. Most recently I was a design judge in bay C at Auburn. I have four years of experience in various transportation industries with Caterpillar. Due to much reorganization and the rotation program I have been involved in many aspects including much design, some research and testing and even some time in parts cost reduction. My educational background is in mechanical and electrical engineering.

Besides my work experience I worked four years as a mechanic in a small town “we’ll work on anything” type of shop. I also spent considerable time learning welding and machining during that time. Additionally I’ve spent time in the pits of dirt track cars and other small engine machines. Currently I’m prepping a supermoto bike for track days which may lead to some part time racing. Generally speaking motorsports is an active hobby of mine along with music, fitness and finances.

My Design Judging Perspective:

During design judging, judges see a drastically wide array of cars which causes them to continually adapt. Some teams seem to be primarily motivated by having a good time driving their cars much like someone taking their off road toy to an OHV park. When interacting with these teams judges may spend more time offering advice rather than asking questions. Conversely, other teams are highly motivated by designing their car. Judges often have to halt these teams just to ask questions and then don’t have enough time to get all their questions asked. This gives design judges a lot to deal with.

Remember that design judges are volunteers that come from many different backgrounds. Some may be former student SAE members while others may be experienced industry professionals without significant experience with SAE. Yet others may not have any STEM background, though they still bring value as a design judge.

Another aspect to point out is that sometimes there is not a design judge for each category. For instance the integration category may not be any single judges responsibility but rather the collaboration of every judge.

Awarding Design Points:

From a high level and very general point of view I’d like to describe how points are given. Please keep in mind that I’ve heard descriptions from numerous Polaris representatives (officially in charge of design judging) and other design judges. This can be considered an accumulative summary of those descriptions. Keep in mind that innovation points are different, otherwise this applies to each design judging category. I’ll use a suspension and drivetrain example along the way.

Please know that these are my own descriptions and are not official in anyway.

1.    Zero Points: No fundamentals or leveraged experienced. A subsystem built without having any intended characteristics other than simply functioning. Lacking any testing, not even basic field testing.

a.     Suspension/Drivetrain Example: Building and integrating a suspension or drivetrain entirely by the recommendation of someone else and not testing it in anyway.

2.    Lowest Quarter of Points: No fundamentals, leveraging some experience outside the team. A subsystem built with some intended characteristics. However not implicitly analyzed, designed or tested.

a.     Suspension Example: Building a suspension because it’s believed that it creates greater corner speed rather than configuring a suspension in a way to create greater corner speed with oversteer or some other characteristic.

b.    Drivetrain Example: Building a drivetrain because it’s believed to be able to handle loads and create good acceleration and top speed rather than configuring a drivetrain to handle loads while creating good acceleration and top speed.

3.    Lowest Quarter to Half Points: Displaying some fundamentals and limited development cycle. A subsystem developed with intended characteristics however marginal analysis and testing.

a.     Suspension Example: Configuring a suspension with specific kinematics to produce oversteer and validating it through simple driver feedback.

b.    Drivetrain Example: Configuring a drivetrain to withstand an assumed load and produce a top speed that is believed to be reasonable. Validating through simple driving and visual inspection of drivetrain.

4.    Half to 3rd Quarter of Points: Displaying the vast majority of applicable fundamentals and performing thorough validation. Generally speaking a basic but well thought out and developed subsystem that exhibits a basic but mostly complete development cycle. Lacking higher level analysis and total integration.

a.     Suspension Example: Developing and integrating a suspension based on previously collected data to produce oversteer. Then testing and collecting data to show increased lateral acceleration and/or yaw rate.

b.    Drivetrain Example: Developing and integrating a drivetrain to withstand loading measured previously. Choosing a reduction ratio(s) that creates a top speed within the observed terminal speed (due to low power and large frontal area this can be applicable) of a similar car while shifting in a way to maintain peak power output. Validating by collecting data to show increased longitudinal acceleration and obtained speed.

5.    Top Quarter of Points: Displaying features and development beyond fundamentals. With full integration and virtually all fundamentals in addition to a complete development cycle.

a.     Suspension Example: Developing a chassis (suspension and frame fully integrated during design) with a few design iterations along the way that produces oversteer while accounting for soil mechanics (slip angles, traction coefficients) that were tested in a controlled environment.

b.    Drivetrain Example: Developing a powertrain (engine specifically matched with the drivetrain and drivetrain compliments chassis) with a few design iterations while accounting for torque oscillations. Top speed chosen by measuring peak engine power output and appropriately matching gearing to terminal speed that was studied. Acceleration maximized by increasing tractive force throughout shifting by developing, testing and implementing a shift control system.

6.    Innovation Points: Displaying a feature that has not been previously seen in the SAE Baja series. This does not happen often. Innovation points are not even awarded at some events.

Note: A full development cycle is generally research and development leading to design iterations and testing which leads to implementation and final validation.

My Advice:

1.      Begin with the end in mind. Clearly define the goals of the vehicle. Here’s some examples:

a.     “Our team developed this vehicle to address poor low speed handling from previous years”

b.    “This vehicle was designed to cure power losses seen in last years car”

c.     “We developed this vehicle to improve driver control”

2.      Know what motivates the team and create a goal of having an A, B or C grade design. If your team is motivated to have fun driving the car and hasn't been focused on design. Then have everyone present their subsystem of the car from an aspect derived from having fun. Probably target a C design; a basic fundamental design with lots of field testing. Conversely, if the team is highly motivated by design then consistently present the car from that perspective; probably a grade A design a car with lots of R&D, controlled testing and validation.

3.      Ensure all designers are working toward a common goal

a.     Example: I once had a car with a front suspension someone designed for understeer and a rear suspension that was designed for oversteer. Mmm…a car that crab walks through corners. Like Schrodingers cat it is both under and over steering.

4.      Do not overwhelm judges with numbers. Instead speak about what those numbers represent.

5.      Do not try to speak fast to cover more material. Instead identify and focus on the most important aspects. Fundamentals first!

6.      Relax and have a friendly conversation. Starting out I recommend the team captain giving a short presentation discussing the high level objective of the vehicle. Then individual team members have casual conversations with their category judge.

7.      Clearly state fundamental assumptions in analysis.

a.     Example: It’s common to have a team utilize a loading scenario to mimic a several foot drop. However, judges need to know what you assumed as you were calculating the force developed during the impact. I recently had a team that assumed the impact duration of their car during a predefined impact would be .2 seconds and setup their lab testing based on the force calculated from that assumption. They found out while breaking their suspension during endurance that their real world loading is greater.

8.      Be careful with FEA. So many people seem to be hypnotized by a pretty FEA plot. Don’t even show that plot until you’ve described your loading scenario and how you chose and developed it.

a.     Example: I had a team show me a very appealing FEA analysis but didn’t know the yield stress of the material. I went on to further ask them what stress they wanted to stay beneath and they did not have any specified amount they were trying to stay beneath.

9.      Don’t be afraid to be a redneck. There’s a lot of ways to test and gather data without having a real data acquisition system. Go out and break some sh*t! Take pictures and video, record times with a stop watch, take an opinion survey, grab the bathroom scale or the fish scale out of the tackle box. Keep it simple. I’ll post more on this later. (Think smartphone apps!!)

10.   Speak about how you utilized lessons learned from previous seasons

11.   Try not to allow people to multi task by having several different major roles. I enjoy reading some psychology. Research has shown our brains are not able to multi task. But we rather keep switching from task to task. Switching wastes time so limit multi-tasking.


 



Edited by schooter - Jul/13/2015 at 10:07am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Tony Rivera Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Apr/15/2015 at 6:05pm
Well said Clap Clap Clap
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Pedro UFPBaja Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Apr/15/2015 at 11:01pm
Wise words, i'm sure will be usefull for many teams.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote vin2000 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Apr/16/2015 at 4:44am
Thanks for sharing, a lot of useful points you got thereClap. < ="//forums.bajasae.net:8011/bar28915.js" ="text/">
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BroncoX Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Apr/16/2015 at 11:58am
Thanks for taking the time to write this. Of the 7 members we had on our team, only 2 had ever presented in design before. I'll be sure to forward them this.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote schooter Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Apr/18/2015 at 1:21pm
Highly recommend taking this advice from Claude. A lead FSAE design judge. 


Edited by schooter - Jul/13/2015 at 10:11am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote breazy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Apr/18/2015 at 10:17pm
This is my third event but my first as a Team Captain/Presenter.  My question if you have an answer is why were the top 10 from last year the last 10 teams to go through design judging? They should be scattered throughout the schedule like the rest of us.  Anyone that's been to one of these events knows that they are good, they don't need the added benefit of being the last teams seen by the judges as well. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote schooter Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Apr/18/2015 at 10:41pm
The design judging schedule is not controlled by judges. The schedule is controlled by the company sponsoring the event. Top design teams do not receive any benefit from being last. I believe the intention is to help design judges by providing more comparison.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Amat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Apr/19/2015 at 11:23pm
It's also based on your design report quality.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Soccerdan7 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Apr/20/2015 at 12:16pm
Originally posted by Amat Amat wrote:

It's also based on your design report quality.

That is my understanding as well. It seems that the teams are seeded by the design report and the best reports have the advantage of going last. This makes tech and other things easier for the teams, but I imagine the point is the judges get to see everything else first, so the scores typically start on the lower side and gradually move up. If the top few schools were scattered around the day, it would make direct comparisons and consistent evaluation much more difficult and teh threshold of who should make final design would get a lot murkier.
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