For engineering student Tom McCausland, his internship is a pitstop in a race to work in motorsports.
Tom is one of four Swinburne interns at elite motorsport team, Walkinshaw Andretti United. He is working on pitstop design and analysis, optimising the wheel gun design, the pit boom and how much data they can get from the car. When the car comes in for more fuel, a tire change or a driver switch, the aim is to find more speed, control and data.
The work that has him collaborating with engineers, mechanics and even staff on the commercial side of the business. For example, if the pit stop equipment is going to be displayed on television, it’s not just the function, but also the graphics and design that matter.
The internship taps into Tom’s passion and what he’s learned in his degree. Tom is studying a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) with a major in Product Design, which teaches students the full cycle of product design – from a sketch on a piece of paper, to 3D modelling on a computer, to getting something machined at the Swinburne Protolab, to presenting it to the business, to practical and theoretical testing and beyond.
Not just fetching coffee or dry cleaning
Tom’s ideas and prototypes are helping to improve the team’s speed on the track. Walkinshaw Andretti United staff don’t have time to explore all their ideas, so that’s where Tom comes in.
Team manager Anthony McDonald emphasises the value of having interns. “New eyes bring a new approach to things, which is always a good thing. We can definitely learn through the process as well.”
“Motorsport is a unique industry. It’s nice to see some young, up-and-coming engineers keen to learn about it,” he says.
Left: Swinburne student Tom McCausland in front of one of Walkinshaw Andretti United's new supercars. Right: All four Swinburne students undertaking work integrated learning at Walkinshaw Andretti United.
How to make an impression
Anthony describes Tom as keen, enthusiastic and unafraid to get involved. Before scoring the Walkinshaw Andretti United internship, Tom was part of the Swinburne Engineering Student’s Society and Team Swinburne Formula SAE, which is a worldwide competition where university students build a combustion or electric open-wheel race car. They also present their designs to real-world engineers and put together a business case that could attract sponsors, including a marketing plan, graphics and uniforms.
Like the real-world of motorsports, students work in multidisciplinary teams, they come from engineering, technology, business, marketing and design degrees.
Over the years Tom has been team leader, aerodynamics leader and worked in manufacturing in the Formula SAE Team. He also volunteered at the Swinburne Protolab, offering time after class to help the technicians and, in exchange, learning how to operate the computer numerical control (CNC) machines and 3D printers. He was able to machine parts for the car, controlling robot arms and equipment in the process.
“It was really good fun after class,” he remembers. “I could take our 3D model off our computer and program essentially what is a big robot to make the parts.”
A supportive, learning environment
The people at Walkinshaw Andretti United always make time to answer Tom’s questions, read his reports and offer their experience and input.
“Motorsport is competitive, but people here look out for one another and put their hand up when they make mistakes, because they know we’re all driving for improvement,” Tom says.
The internship has further fuelled his ambitions to build a career in motorsport management and engineering.
“This internship has exceeded my expectations. As we get closer to the start of the season, it keeps getting better because everyone is rewarded for all the hard work. When the car hits the track, and everyone is in their uniform working together, it’s a buzz.”
Find out more about Work Integrated Learning opportunities at Swinburne