Tag Archives: automotive engineering

First Year of Master’s: DONE!

It is incredible how time flies. I still remember the day I arrived to Sweden like it was yesterday, but it’s been 10 months already in here, that means that I’m halfway done! First year of my master’s degree has come to an end, this translates into two things; first of all SUMMER BREAK is here! and second, I only have one more academic year to go!

Before I get a little bit too excited over the summer, I wanted to write a few thoughts about this first year. So, this post will be about my first impressions, what I’ve been up to during the past year, and finally what I’ve learned from being an international student in Sweden.

Technically I’m still working on Formula Student, preparing for the competitions during the summer, but hey! at least I don’t have lectures nor assignments to hand in anymore (for the time being…).

First impressions.

A few of us have written about our first months, our first thoughts (right now Ivanna’s post comes to my mind, also Francesco’s post). I want to keep this part of the post short, so I will give you a brief summary.

The student life in Sweden is amazing! There are student committees basically for every interest you might think (we have a scuba diving, hot air balloon and pyrotechnic committees at Chalmers), I’ve visited a few universities in Sweden, and in my experience all the campuses are so incredible. In general terms, Sweden has an incredible atmosphere to study, on the other hand Swedes might give the impression to be cold, but it’s just one layer of trust that you need to go through.

First year of Master’s.

First things first, if you are coming to do an engineering program, learning Matlab beforehand it’s a great idea! I still remember the very first assignments I had to do, they literally gave me a script to work with to solve some given tasks…let’s say that those days trying to figure Matlab out weren’t so pleasant. In case you don’t know it, I am doing a MSc in Automotive Engineering at Chalmers.

In my case, the semester is divided into two periods; 8 weeks each period. So, every academic year has 4 study periods. During the first period I took two courses, Engineering of Automotive Systems & Internal Combustion Engines. Both introductory courses but I liked them. A few months after beginning my program I took part of a project called Formula Student, which gives equivalent credits as two courses.

This months were hectic, I was basically in campus at least 15 hours a day, once the project started to become more demanding I was spending more time on campus than at my place. The second period I took again two courses; Vehicle Dynamics & Vehicle and Traffic Safety. I must admit that I didn’t like Vehicles Dynamics that much, don’t get me wrong, the topic is amazingly interesting, but some lectures were kind of boring.

Third and fourth period I took only one course each period in addition to Formula Student, I took Road Vehicle Aerodynamics on the third period and Vehicle Dynamics Advanced during the fourth. Both great. (I recall one post about the Vehicle Dynamics Advanced course from Gimmy).

224 days after, here I am, getting closer to that master’s degree.

What I’ve learned.

I don’t even know where to begin with, let’s just start with the easy things such as: doing my laundry (I very little experience back in Mexico), cooking different stuff, recycle more efficiently, a little bit of Matlab (it is so hard), a lot about aerodynamics, a few things about photography, things the Swedes do, a tiny bit of Swedish (it is also hard and the reality is that I haven’t spent too much time on it), and off course a lot of engineering things!

These things are just a few of the thousand things I’ve learned over the past year, and there are still a lot of new things to learn. That’s the most exciting part of being here I would say.

Now, it’s time to embrace the sun and enjoy the summer!


Why do race cars have aerodynamic shape?

This might be my very first post about engineering, which is a little bit weird considering that I am studying engineering (this is where the emoji with the hand on his chin wondering something goes). Anyway, let’s talk about something that I really like and hopefully someone will like it as well: cars, specifically racing cars!

Motorsports is where engineers test the limits of new technologies, where engineers break their head thinking on how they can defeat the other teams on the race track by building the best car. As you might know, I’ve been working on Chalmers Formula Student, where basically I’m part of a 32 team building a formula-like car.


As part of the Aerodynamics subgroup within Chalmers Formula Student, my job is to increase the overall performance of the car by adding wings to the car. This might sound non-sense, “adding wings into a car?”, for now just trust me when I say that wings on race cars or sport cars are good.

It might be a little bit complex to explain but I will do my best, let’s start by defining what aerodynamics is:


noun, plural in form but singular or plural in construction aero·dy·nam·ics \ˌer-ō-dī-ˈna-miks\
1. The branch of mechanics that deals with the motion of air and other gases and with the effects of such motion on bodies in the medium.

We all have extended our hand out of a car’s side window and felt the air pushing our hand, this is basically a straight forward way for understanding aerodynamics. If an object moves through a fluid, air in this case, then the object will experience forces acting on it. One of them it’s the resistance of motion, and this one is called aerodynamic drag. The second force might be not so obvious, mostly unnoticed by the everyday driver, this force is the one “pushing” the car more to the ground, known as aerodynamic downforce.

Now for racecars aerodynamic downforce is of a greater importance than drag, this does not mean that drag can be left aside, simply it comes secondary. So far, I have explained briefly what aerodynamics is and which forces are generated due to the airflow, and everyone has experienced firsthand the aerodynamic drag so it is easier to understand that one, but how does downforce is produced?


To understand aerodynamic forces, specifically downforce, a typical cross section of a wing is of use. Now, let us assume that it moves from left to right. Because of the shape and angle of this airfoil section, the air will move faster on the lower surface than on the upper one. This speed difference creates a low pressure (suction) on the lower surface and a higher pressure on the upper one. The result of this pressure difference is the force that pushes the car more to the ground a.k.a aerodynamic downforce.

In a car, the forces to push it forward are created at the contact patch between the ground and the tire, these friction-like forces are strongly affected by the vertical force applied. Now, if we could increase the vertical tire force (and maximum friction) by pushing the tire more against the road, then the cornering force could increase dramatically, without the risk of sliding!

Long story short, if we push the tires against the ground we can take the corners at a higher speed without going off road, or without sliding, hence we can go faster around the track and reduce the lap times!

This is one of the main reasons why race cars look completely different to passenger cars!


CFS16 during endurance test in FSG 2016

THE ultimate engineering competition.

A few months ago, it never crossed my mind to be involved in a project as big as Formula Student, and if we go even further it never crossed my mind being in Sweden, and you know what, that is exactly what I like about decision making, ultimately every single decision will take you one step closer to a new adventure.

First things first, what is Formula Student? And why is it so big? If I had to explain Formula Student (Formula SAE) as simple as possible the only thing that comes to my mind is: THE most challenging engineering competition in the student environment.

CFS16 during Formula Student Germany ©

Formula Student

In my dictionary, engineering means developing and pushing an idea to the limit defined by science (the fun part is when you go over the limit). Now, let’s move on to the question what is Formula Student? Well, Formula Student is the world largest engineering competition at student level, just to give you an example; 249 teams from all over the world participated in registration to take a place in the event held in Germany!

Basically, each university team designs, builds, tests and present their concept of a single seat, open wheel formula racecar. The competition is not won by the team with the fastest car, but rather by the team with the best overall package of construction, performance, and financial and sales planning. The car is assessed through different events, both static and dynamic.To test the performance of the car, dynamic events like acceleration, skidpad and endurance take place during competition. Car is also judge in design, cost and in business planning.

I mentioned that the competition is in Germany previously, but the competition is not exclusively held in Germany. There are 10 different competitions around the world: Michigan, 2 events in Nebraska, Australia, Brazil, Italy, United Kingdom, Austria, Germany, and finally Japan. Germany being the most challenging and competitive one.

Formula Student involves a tremendous amount of effort from everyone in the team, it’s a project that extends for over a year, since the formation of the team until the last day of competition. Moreover, Formula Student it’s not just building a car, it is one of the best ways of getting experience.


CFS16 during Formula Student Germany ©

CFS16 during Formula Student Germany ©

Chalmers Formula Student

This year I have the fortune of being part of the Chalmers Formula Student (CFS17) Team, one of the top teams in the world (the best team in the world according to me but this is just me not being objective). Chalmers has performed quite good over the past years, just last year CFS16 ended up in the 6th place in UK; 2012, CFS12 won the competition in the UK; in 2014, CFS14 got the 3rd place in Germany, but this are only some of the results that Chalmers has achieved over the years.

I joined CFS without knowing what I was about to do, without knowing the amount of time that I would put into a single project, without knowing the number of things that I would learn just by looking at what previous years have done. So far, it’s been quite challenging.

I am part of the Aerodynamics and Exterior Design subgroup, where I work with 2 more team mates adding wings into the car…I know it sounds crazy but trust me, wings are good for race cars. You can expect a post later regarding aerodynamics, right now I don’t want to bore you with engineering facts.

To give you some context, the team consists of about 30 engineers, from different nationalities, everyone with a different background and from different academic programs. This is, in my opinion, one of our best advantages.

Right now we are building the car, every single component from the new complety re-design motors to the carbon fiber rims. CFS latest model will be running 1st of May (or at least that is the plan)

Stay tuned for the upcoming updates on Formula Student, I’m sure I will write again about it!




Bonjourno, Sweden!

Milan, 26C, partially cloudy


I have a motto for life – “the more I move, the luckier I get”. Perhaps I become a more interesting person, or maybe I become more open minded.

Several Master’s programmes at Chalmers have double degree exchange deal with Stuttgart University and Shanghai JiaoTong University. I thought how cool would it be to spend the second year of my Master’s in Germany (drinking beer and eating bratwürst)… especially for an Automotive Engineering student at Stuttgart.


But I turned down this opportunity… for several reasons.

1/ The Swedes, young and old, speak English near native level… it is easy to forget that I am studying in Europe.  You might not be able to say the same about all German professors. Was ist das?

2/ The Swedes are pretty open to immigrants… the Swedes are generally open to different cultures, religions, sexual orientations, etc. I don’t feel like an alien in Sweden!


Third, my mother told me to stay in Sweden.


4/ I changed my mind. I am satisfied with Chalmers education. “if it isn’t broken, why fix it?”

5/ I met a girl from Italy at Chalmers… Life is full of unexpected surprises. I tried to find an internship position, but failed. When I devoted my life to the machine shop, this happens.


I spent the weekend in Milan with her majesty Eva. I also managed to catch up with Camilla, a Polytechnic Uni. of Milan exchange student I met in Canada. What a beautiful city. Why would anyone leave Italy for Sweden?!! The Milanese explained the education in Italy is much more “theoretical”, whereas Sweden focuses more on the “practical” aspect.


Eva is striking luck up here in Sweden. She managed to settle a one-year biomedical engineering master’s thesis project at a local artificial limb company. I think her “receipt for success” is her über proactive approach to opportunities.

After taking lessons from her, I managed to grab a part-time lab technician position at the Chalmers combustion dept. starting in September. Looking forward!


Midsummer at IKEAtemporary exhibition in Milan


I am rather sad leaving the summery Milan, even though I had a year’s worth of mosquito bites in just one weekend.


Greatest life lesson – ALWAYS remember to bring mosquito repellent!


“the further north I move, the luckier I get!”… back to the wonderful Swedish summer!





Chalmers: Vehicle Dynamics

“A good car is not just a fast car… it is the one that goes the fastest around a corner.”  Praise Vehicle Dynamics!

Side note:

Chalmers has a lot of collaboration with industry on vehicle dynamics/autonomous driving. Chalmers also has a partnership with Stanford working on that autonomous Pike’s peak Audi TT. Super cool stuff! Professor Mathias Lidberg is the Chalmers man in charge.

Side note #2:

Colloquial: “Chalmers profs are super chill”. Professor Lidberg (well, we address him as Mathias) gave me a nickname “GoPro”, because I helped him with his GoPro video camera. Yep, he is also a fan of GoPro video camera. What a cool prof!

Screenshot 2015-03-12 14.38.50

Back to Vehicle Dynamics:

Sure, this course was quite challenging and somewhat essential to Automotive Engineering. The course studied basic vehicle-handling characteristics. What is …handling?

Motivation: have you ever sat in the back of a crappy minivan? If you have, then you might have some good clues why they are nicknamed “vomit comets”. When you come to a stop and your car is still wobbling up and down seconds after, it probably means you are driving a crappy car.

Screenshot 2015-03-12 14.39.19

How do we fix that?

The short answer is to study the car’s suspension geometry, springs and dampers – so they work with the rest of the car together in harmony.

We started modelling vehicles as a “bicycle” (if you think about it, cars are nothing but two bikes)… and we didn’t really go beyond the bicycle model either, because the model is so robust.

There was a lot of mathematics in this course. I had to dust off my Laplace transformation equations. Ok, I won’t go into the details about this course, as it will give me headaches. But here are some interesting thoughts…

1/ The Swedes here löv using LaTex for writing reports. And Yes, it looks super crisp!

2/ I mentioned that the Chalmers students are very proficient with Matlab. It is incredible how good they are! I still have a lot to catch up to them. Matlab is a handy tool to perform operations on large sets of data. Learn it before coming to Sweden.

3/ I described a study visit to the AstaZero test track. AstaZero is the world’s prime test ground for vehicle traffic safety. We were there to perform a few driving maneuverers, capture data, and…finally go home and analyse it. According to the data analysis, I am a jerky driver. Meh…

Screenshot 2015-03-12 14.39.50

I really enjoyed the course, as it was challenging, it had a mixture of theory and practically, and it had a very interesting hands-on lab project on the test track.

… but that exam was a little (too) difficult.


Så, exam season is upcoming. In fact I have an exam on Monday. Meanwhile, spring is in full swing. I am sitting on the grass, writing this blog…. Ummmm the grass isn’t completely dry…g2g!







Photos extracted from “Course compendium for MMF062”

This compendium also available as pdf file at

http://pingpong.chalmers.se/public/courseId/4042/lang-en/publicPage.do. © Copyright: Bengt Jacobson, Chalmers University of Technology


Below: my bike, beautiful in terms of vehicle dynamics in design.


CNC machine, max. feed, 5000 rpm, no big deal

I mentioned Chalmers workshop last time. Today, I’ll say a few words about students that are running wild in the CNC workshop.

(photo: I am learning how to write G-Code on the CNC lathe machines)

Yes, students operating CNC machines. CNC stands for Computer Numeric Control. You are probably not so impressed, if you have no idea about CNC machines.

  1. They are freaking expensive (an inexpensive HAAS lathe costs about half a million SEK, or $100,000 USD)
  2. They aren’t easy to operate (people go through three years of college training)
  3. It is really easy to screw up the machine (if you clash two moving components, you will hear the loudest bang in your life…and then your wallet shrinks into a black hole)
  4. A nice Sandvik Coromant carbide tool cost 10,000 SEK, and it breaks easily when misused.


Photo: a typical CNC milling machine. 

Ok, the students are not running “wild” in the “irresponsible” sense. They are operating the machine at its performance ceilings (meaning the machinists know what they are doing). IMG_1149

Photo: Niklas & Marcus on the CNC lathe.

I have never seen & heard a lathe running at 5000 revolutions per second. It sounds like an aircraft engine. Not exaggerating.

Of course, not anyone is allowed to fool around with these machines. The Chalmers Formula Student (CFS) machinists operating these CNC machines are extremely talented.


Photo: Göran from Sandvik Coromant visiting the CFS team and showing Victor how to realise a tool’s full capability.

Let me list a few:

  • Isak from CFS 2014: he is probably born inside a CNC machine. Even the engineer at Sandvik Coromant (a Swedish tooling manufacturer) is impressed by his knowledge and ability.
  • Johannes from CFS 2015: he is probably born with a welding gun in his hand. After seeing him laying down a perfect bead of aluminium weld, he goes into the CNC lab and mills out quite complex geometries.
  • Niklas from CFS 2014 is a man of the north. He is from Umeå, where the SI bloggers visited last year. He is so familiar with the CNC lathe that the machine shop head comes to him with questions. (The flat hierarchy in Sweden also means the student-teacher relationship is quite sincere).


Photo: Johannes tooling around the CNC mill

Lately, Niklas is investing a lot of his free time to teach CNC lathe to Marcus and I.


Photo: Carefully running the program in “single block” mode, baby steps, one block at a time.

I can’t fly on my own yet. I don’t think I will have time to practice enough on the CNC lathe to earn my “license”. Nonetheless, I feel quite privileged to touch the CNC machine and rev it up to 5000 RPM (under Niklas’ presence).


Photo: Trying to understand which tool goes where and does what…


Photo: Taking baby-steps, learning each tool and figuring out its “cutting position”. It’s not a selfie. I couldn’t determine the position of the tool that is oriented upside down…. position 3, matching?

Ok, back to the workshop.






somebody is in charge of 3D printing… was it you Josue?