Team Interviews: Tom De Haseleer
Tom De Haseleer is in his final year of Electromechanical Engineering Sciences at the University of Leuven at Campus Group T. Together with his colleague Stef Vermeulen, he is in charge of the Aerodynamics Department at Punch Powertrain Solar Team.
What was your motivation to take part in the Punch Powertrain Solar Team?
“This choice was mainly motivated due to my study choices in high school and my Bachelor year. In high school I was already studying electromechanics and wanted to continue this in my career at university. This mainly since I think it is important to receive a lot of practical experience. During my Bachelor year I was studying to becom an airline engineer in Ostend. After this I did a switch year for a Master in Engineering Sciences at Campus Group T, specifically to become part of the Solar Team, which I was following since the beginning of my career at university. I applied for theAerodynamics function at Punch Powertrain Solar Team due to my Bachelor in Aviation Sciences.”
How does it start in the Aerodynamics department?
“First of all we draw up the model of the car we want to build. To do this, we take a look at the models of previous teams, and even the competitions’ models in previous years. After this we decided to completely deviate from the previous Solar Teams with an asymmetrical car. Since after several simulations, it showed that with this model we could perfect the car even further.
From September 2014 until January 2015, Stef and I were busy drawing the cars and continuously improving the different models. In total, I think we have drawn well over 200 models to get to the final Solar Car, the Punch One, To draw these models, we are working with the different structural departments e.g. for the suspension. It’s important to get the model ready as quickly as possible since otherwise, the other departments can’t start construction. Still, there are often discussions with other departments. Sometimes this can go as far as having a discussion on removing one solar cell. Still we have to argument our choice for this as best as possible to show the benefits of removing that one solar cell.”
However, your job is not finished after drawing the final model, I presume?
“Certainly not, during the construction of the car we can have situations in which we have to slightly redraw the car to make sure everything runs smoothly. After the Solar Car has been fully constructed, this is also placed in a wind tunnel. At that moment you sometimes see a lot of difference between a computer model and real life: often there are small imperfections that occur during construction and affect the aerodynamics of the car. This are amended after the wind tunnel test.”
What is the most important thing you have learned during this experience?
“The most important thing for me was to work together as a team towards a common goal. You learn that everyone in a team fulfils a certain role and that sometimes it is quite complex to get a streamlined cooperation going with all different team members. Apart from this I have received a vast technical knowledge, which would have taken me years to learn if I had done this at a company. Since I would like to go further in the aeronautics industry, the aerodynamics function has brought me a lot of experience.”