Team Interviews: Robbe Craeninckx
Robbe Craeninckx will graduate next year at his course of Engineering Sciences with a specialisation in Intelligent Manufacturing. This is one year later than most of his fellow students, because of his participation in the Punch Powertrain Solar Team. “However, I am also doing a postgraduate in Innovative Entrepreneurship at the University of Leuven. So by June 2016, I will have two degrees at the same time.”
Why did you choose to participate in the Punch Powertrain Solar Team?
“I had the job market in the back of my head. I always wanted to have something extra during my studies, since I realise that this is a plus for my CV. In the beginning I doubted to do an MBA, but through the media attention surrounding the Solar Team and some research of my own, I discovered that the Solar Team is the project for me. I always wanted to study at Group T, and the Solar Team is the icing on the cake.”
What does your function entail?
“Together with Sam De Wel, I am responsible for the Structural Design of the solar car. Sam works on the bottom shell of the car, among which is the chassis. I am more concentrated on the top shell: the solar panels, the connection to the bottom shell and the cockpit. The chassis is made of carbon fibre to make the car as light as possible, however it still has to be strong. Sam and I look at what parts of carbon have to be put where and in which orientation. The goal is simple: the car has to run as efficiently as possible without a waste of energy.”
Does the car differ a lot from the previous teams?
“There is not a lot of room to make changes. The cars of the previous teams were already well built, so we are continuing on their design. In addition, we have to take the demands of the aerodynamics and mechanical departments into account. The main point is to work together and to optimally use the possibilities for optimizing. In this fashion, I have introduced a novelty to the design of our car: below the solar panels we created openings to better cool down the car and raise efficiency.”
What is the most important thing that you have learned here?
“Determination. We are all working so hard, sometimes under enormous pressure. Thanks to this, stressful situations have become normal for us. Apart from this, we are constantly working together and teamwork is a strong asset on the job market. The knowledge I have gained in the field of structural design is impressive. Other engineering students do not have this knowledge, while we even have practical knowledge. The team constantly has to think in a problem solving way in a fast paced environment, just like real engineers.”
Do you think there is a chance to get on the podium at the World Solar Challenge in Australia for the Punch Powertrain Solar Team?
“Absolutely. The car looks great and there have been a vast number of improvements to last year’s car. This is also thanks to the 2014 team. Because Groep T is the only team that makes solar cars in Belgium, the members of the previous teams have become the real experts. We regularly have meeting with them and they are very much engaged in our work. We definitely have a chance for the podium, but that also depends on the competition,” Craeninckx laughs.