Motor racing's all part of the course for engineering student Andy Venkitaraman


Driving a high-performance car around the Silverstone race track might be many a teenage boy's dream, but it wouldn't normally be associated with pursuing an educational path when that teenager reaches his early twenties. But for Andy Venkitaraman, a postgraduate student at Coventry University, racing fast cars is at the heart of the dissertation project he's now in the middle of, at the end of his year on an MSc in automotive engineering.

A team of engineering students at Coventry took part in a nationwide competition called Formula Student, in which university teams designed and built their own racing cars and then raced them against each other at Silverstone last weekend.

Venkitaraman's role was to research and perfect the design and manufacturing process for a key part of the Coventry car's structure, an experience that he now has to document in his dissertation, due for submission in November.

He came to the UK last autumn from India, having finished a BEng in automotive engineering at Mumbai University the previous year and taken a working gap year in Mumbai in a related field.

"After my first degree, I needed a break and wanted to learn something more practical, so I managed to get a job with a company advising other firms on heavy vehicle safety," he recalls. This experience confirmed his desire to stay in the automotive field, but also to widen his experience and academic qualifications.

"I particularly wanted to get involved in motor sports, and Coventry is one of the biggest names in this area," he explains, although he also considered similar programmes at Aachen in Germany and Cranfield University in Bedfordshire.

The course content revolves chiefly around materials science and vehicle dynamics, taking in computer aided design and the study of noise and vibration. There's also a solid chunk of project management, closely linked to the car business. It's something that Venkitaraman hadn't really encountered at university in India.

There are no examinations: assessment is based solely on work submitted for assignments and projects, one of which was to design a low-carbon, four-wheel drive vehicle for rural use. This concentration on a student's own work came as a slight shock initially.

"Back home it was exams all the time," he says. "It's totally different here at Coventry, but the system has brought out the best in me."

He also had to get to grips with the level of independent writing that's expected of students. "Doing some courses I have had sleepless nights trying to work things out for myself, which is a new thing for me. And plagiarism is a big issue here. You really need to read, understand, and rephrase things yourself."

There are about 70 others on the course, and the range of nationalities represented is a testament to Coventry University's reputation in this field.

"There are lots of Asians, along with Africans, some Chinese and a few Europeans," he explains, "but only about three-quarters of us have done our first degrees in the UK."

He confesses to being slightly disappointed at the ratio of theoretical work to practical exercises.

"To be honest [the course] has been more out of books than I thought, and I haven't been as exposed to the practical side as I'd have wanted. I mainly want to built engines and do modifications. But that's being partly addressed by the [racing car] project."

And after November? "I definitely want to work in the UK or internationally before returning to India."

Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the iWatch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Astronauts could be kept asleep for days or even weeks
scienceScientists are looking for a way to keep astronauts in a sleeplike state for days or weeks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

SThree: Recruitment Consultant (Trainee / Experienced)

£18000 - £27000 per annum + doe OTE £45K: SThree: SThree are always looking fo...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are a recent psychology graduate ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Graduate Graphic Designer

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Largest Independent Motor D...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own