The University of Washington Formula Motorsports Team has been designing, manufacturing, building, testing, and competing with a new racecar each year for over 25 years. The team has grown from only a handful of mechanical engineering students into a group that accepts students from all majors across campus, so long as they can fill a need on the team. The team’s students not only come to gain hands-on experience in their chosen fields, but many of them also come out for their shared interested in cars.
According to Sheena Kapur, team administrative director of UW Formula and student of human centered design and engineering, she spends over 60 hours a week in the area known to the team as “The Pit” in order to make sure the team stays in line and on track. For many, the only reason needed to devote this much time is “because racecar”.
This article was harder than I thought it was going to be. Since I’m so close to the team, I tend to look past the people to see what they are working on. I see them machining the hard steel into useable bits and I’m fascinated by that, when I should really be looking elsewhere to get some of the more human interest and story-telling photos – a guy machining a lump of steel may be cool to me, but its just a guy machining a lump of steel to many people. Having the input from other photographers helped me stand back. Lesson learned from this one: take a look the people rather than just their handiwork. It may seem obvious, but they make some pretty amazing stuff.
One of the other difficulties was a last minute change in gear. I had borrowed a Canon 5D from school in order to shoot video for another class and decided to use it for snapshots of the team. The first sign of trouble came when it took me almost 2 hours to get the photos on the camera, off. Luckily, it finally worked, but instead of having great photos from a high-quality camera, I also found out that the auto-focus wasn’t working properly, so out of almost 150 photos taken on Sunday and Monday, only about 15 came out in focus. I will never use strange cameras again.