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."

Sport
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

year 4/5/6

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you looking for a full...

NQT Teachers

Negotiable: Randstad Education Crawley: Randstad Education can provide you wit...

Year 4 Teacher

£20000 - £31000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to wo...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week