FSAE : Frequently Asked Questions

Answered by FSAE Supervisor Prof MAJ (NS) Seah Kar Heng

1. How can I apply to be on the FSAE program?

Watch out for my e mail near the end of Semester 2 to recruit coming second year and Poly direct-intake students.

2. Do I need to be on DCP (Design centric program) before applying for FSAE?

No, FSAE application is open to all students in NUS Faculty of Engineering who are entering Year 2. It does not matter which Dept you belong to or whether you are doing any specialization program either. Our current team consists of students from different Depts within Engineering Faculty.

3. Can I apply for FSAE even if I am already in DCP doing a different project?

Yes, you are welcome to apply for FSAE. If you don’t make it into the FSAE main team, you can still go back to your original DCP project.

4. Can I be in FSAE even if I am specializing in Aeronautical Engineering, Energy and Sustainability, or Offshore Oil and Gas Technology?

Yes, FSAE is relevant to these specialisations as well.

5. Are students selected for FSAE based on CAP (cumulative average point) score?

No. CAP score is not one of the selection criteria, although I do monitor the whole team’s CAP scores in case they drop to dangerous levels.

6. What are the criteria for selection of FSAE team members?

The main qualities we look for are passion, perseverance, team spirit, and fire-fighting skills (ie. the ability to quickly solve unexpected problems). Building a Formula race car and racing in it internationally is serious business. So you need to be dedicated to the job. We keep strict deadlines. You must be willing to learn fast and get your hands dirty building a car. To survive this project, you need to be good in your engineering fundamentals, preferably with a certain level of interest in cars and/or racing. Experience in these areas will help you progress faster although the skills can be nurtured on the job. Physical fitness and an adventurous spirit are plus points. By and large, racecar engineering involves mainly mechanical engineering topics (Thermodynamics, Fluid mechanics, Applied mechanics, Manufacturing, Materials science, Control), in addition to Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering. Even after being shortlisted into FSAE, your first semester in FSAE is really a probationary term, known as a Boot Camp. During that period, you can be told to leave if your performance is not satisfactory and you may also voluntarily drop out of FSAE if you lose interest. Sloppy work on a race car has injured or killed many a racer throughout motorsports history, and we don’t want that to happen in NUS FSAE. About 8 students from this lot will be selected before the start of Semester 4 to join the main FSAE competition team. The rest have the option of continuing doing research on FSAE topics or switch to other activities.

7. How many MCs (modular credits) can I earn for FSAE work?

These are the modular credits that can be earned in FSAE. They will replace equivalent ones that your peers are taking who are not in FSAE.

Semester Module code Module MCs
3 EG2606B IWP on FSAE (Replaces DCP's EG2301/EG2311) 4
4,5,6,7 or 8 EG2201A Design thinking (Classes on Mon and Thur nights) 4
4,5 EG3301R Design project on FSAE 12
6 EG3601 IA in Keppel-NUS lab (Optional for all Poly students) 12
6,7 UROP UROP on FSAE (Optional for all) 4
7,8 EG4301 FYP on FSAE 12
8. What is the life cycle for someone on the FSAE program?

It will be a three year commitment, from the start of Year 2 until graduation. Your first year in FSAE is a learning year with apprenticeship training. You need to learn real fast because by next Jan, ie. half a year later, you will be involved in the conceptualization of the following year’s car, together with the Year 3 and Year 4 seniors in the team. During the long vacation between Years 2 and 3, you will be designing the new car together with the seniors. In Year 3, you will be building your first race car together with the final year students. In May of Year 3, you will fly to USA with the team to represent NUS and Singapore at the competition (all expenses paid). In Year 4, you will be building your second race car. In May of Year 4, you will fly to USA to compete for a second time.

9. Can I opt for IA (industrial attachment), VIP (vacation internship program), SEP (student exchange program) or NOC (NUS Overseas Colleges) if I want to be on the FSAE program?

No. If you wish to be on the FSAE program, you must be prepared to devote three full years (Years 2, 3, 4) to FSAE work, although a special IA or VIP program within NUS can be arranged for FSAE team members. Formula racing is not child’s play. However, if you are not decided about IA, VIP, SEP or NOC, you may apply for FSAE first. By the following January, you will be told if you make it into the team, while those who lose interest would have dropped out on their own. You still have plenty of time after that to apply for IA, VIP, SEP, NOC or your preferred activity. Being in the FSAE, you will spend about a month overseas during your last two undergraduate years anyway.

10. How much commitment are you looking for?

You must be fully committed to getting the new car up and running, fully tested and prepared for the competition. Each year we have only about 18 months to bring our car from concept, through construction and testing, to competition. So there is an overlap period between the old and new teams.

11. How much time do team members normally spend on the race car project?

It depends on the time of year. During vacation time, you are expected to work at least 8 hours a day, ie. normal office hours. If there is a deadline to catch, you may need to work at night and through weekends as well. However, you may take short holidays and go for reservist in-camp-training. After each year’s competition in the USA, the team normally extend their stay there to holiday for a fortnight before coming back. During term time, you can only work on the car between lectures, at night and on some Saturdays. We try to keep Sundays free. After the car is completed, we will need to test the car when a test venue is available, which could be on weekdays, Saturdays, Sundays or public holidays. If you learn fast, work fast, and manage your time well, you may still have spare time to pursue your other personal interests. The more you learn, the better an engineer you will be and the better will be the car that you construct.

This is the annual cycle:
Jan to Apr: Conceptualization of the following year’s car
May to Jul: Design of car, computer simulations, lab and engine dyno tests
Aug to Oct: Actual fabrication of the car
Nov: Stop for exams
Dec: Tune engine, test chassis rigidity, assemble car for maiden run
Jan to Mar: Car suspension set-up, test drives, modifications, tune car for competition, drivers’ training, submit compulsory monthly reports to FSAE organizers in USA
Apr: Stop for exams, car gets transported to USA
May: Competition in USA

12. How will FSAE recruits be trained to design and build race cars?

Throughout your first FSAE year, I will be giving you night classes on race car engineering for about 2 hours each week, while you will spend another evening of your choice assisting the FSAE seniors. During vacations, I will teach longer hours each week. Since this is still not enough for you to build a race car, you will be given relevant books or chapters to study in your spare time. During vacations, you will be taught how to weld metal and operate machine tools. Your seniors will also teach you the proper use of hand tools, fitting, measurement, fabrication of composite materials, plus the CAD (computer aided design) softwares that are necessary for designing the car and for FEA (finite element analysis) simulation. We have to build a reliable and competitive car that will not endanger the lives of our student drivers.

13. Will FSAE work adversely affect my exam results?

It depends on the student. Some students do better academically after joining the FSAE team as they will understand better what is taught in the classroom. Others may suffer a drop in CAP score due to neglect of their studies. It is all a matter of proper time management and prioritization. Because of our reputation built up over the years, companies (engineering or otherwise) generally have a very good impression of NUS graduates with FSAE experience, and willingly offer them jobs without asking about their grades. Daring to race in a car that you built yourself is proof of your technical competence and self-confidence, more than exam grades and class of honours.

14. What do I gain from being in the FSAE team?

You gain plenty of practical engineering knowledge which you cannot get in class, and the personal satisfaction of constructing a competitive car in Singapore’s only Formula race car factory. You may even be selected as one of our race drivers. (We need at least two designated drivers and one or two reserves for each of the four racing events at the competition in USA, namely, drag race, skidpad, autocross, endurance race.) It is a once-in-a-lifetime thrill to construct and drive your own Formula race car. You will join the ranks of the previous batches of NUS FSAE guys. Those who have graduated invariably find the three years in FSAE their most unforgettable experience in NUS, if not in their lives. Long before their graduation, FSAE team members are head hunted by many companies because of our good reputation built over many years. During every Formula One Singapore Grand Prix, several of my ex-FSAE guys are engaged as scrutineers in the garages to inspect the cars to ensure that they are safe for racing and conform to FIA rules. They are the privileged ones to have the chance to look inside the F1 cars and be in the heat of all the action backstage. Being in close proximity to the F1 racers, mechanics and engineers is an added bonus.

15. Have there been any accidents or injuries in FSAE before?

Of course. Accidents and injuries in motorsports can never be fully eliminated. However these can be minimized with proper safety procedures and proper construction of the car. That’s why there’s a lot of detailed computer aided design, calculations, simulations, lab tests and engine dyno tests to perform all year round. As much as possible, we conduct diagnostic test drives, as well as drivers’ training to prepare the whole team for the annual competition in USA. After every test run, we will check the whole car thoroughly for wear and damages, replacing components where necessary. We also conduct crash tests to ensure that the driver is sufficiently protected. All this is very time consuming, but necessary for safety. All year round, we practise stringent safety precautions. Your life and disability insurances will be fully paid for, whether or not you qualify as one of our racers. Throughout your years in FSAE, we will be closely monitoring your work to make sure you don’t injure or kill yourself or your team mate.

16. What other automotive option is there for me if I don’t get selected into the FSAE team?

If you don’t get selected into the FSAE team, you can still be in the FSAE R&D (Research and Development) team, or be involved in vehicle-related projects in DCP.

17. Can an ME student on the FSAE program opt for a different specialization?

Yes, of course. However, it is not compulsory for ME students to choose a specialization. There are many FSAE team members who decide not to specialize at all, so that they can have more freedom in choosing their elective modules. In fact, most engineering students do not choose to specialize, so that they have freedom to take a wider range of modules.

18. If I am an ME student, will specialization restrict my scope of employment?

No, because no matter whether you specialize or not, you will still be graduating with a degree in ME which will stand you in good stead in almost all companies in Singapore. A specialization can be an added advantage if you apply for a job in a related company, as ME Dept will award you a separate specialization certificate to show potential employers when the occasion calls for it. By and large, FSAE graduates are highly sought after in many sectors of the economy, so it does not really matter whether they specialize in anything or not at all.

19. Is there a much heavier work load for students on the FSAE team?

Of course, it is hard work designing and building one race car per year for an international competition. Formula race cars represent the pinnacle of automotive engineering, requiring an extremely high standard of engineering. A Formula race car experiences tremendous forces on the track. Very often something goes wrong which needs immediate attention. Any procrastination could lead to further damage. When lives are at stake, there is little room for error. The annual FSAE event in USA is a mega-contest on Design and Technology, rather like an Olympics of Engineering.

20. Can poly diploma holders join the FSAE team?

Of course. Many of our most competent team members are poly diploma holders as they have much experience in practical engineering.

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