What you can learn about life from a motorsport tour

Today Dad and I went on a site tour of Jones Brothers Racing. There were a lot of interesting things that I learnt (even knowing pretty little about motorsport) – for example they have a reverse-dyno (a dyno measures the output of an engine when it’s running) which runs the engine eg in a way that simulates the Bathurst track’s inclines and whatnot, so that they can see how the bearings etc in the engine will respond to that usage. They go to a lot of effort to hold the room at a controlled temperature during these tests.

As well as stuff specific to the tour, I picked up on a few things that can be considered more general knowledge:

  • Using actual things from real-life examples instead of something like it makes a big difference. The engines that were being pulled apart were kind of interesting, but once he said “this was on the Bathurst track last week” it was instantly way cooler! Obviously the engine itself didn’t look any different, but I think your appreciation level changes significantly once you can trust that something is truly ‘real world’
  • I felt awkward not knowing anything about cars, but once someone else who I figured did know something about cars asked a question, I felt much more comfortable asking things. I think there’s something powerful in seeing a role model/expert admit that they don’t know everything, and you don’t have to either.
  • Most of the technical talk went over my head, but once they mentioned something that I recognised, it became interesting. That’s why I try to break my projects down to a simple high-level explanation so that they can engage with it because it won’t completely go over someone’s head (eg a susceptible-infected-recovered mathematical model of a disease spreading process which can be explained with just rates of change, which most people know about!). I think that people want to feel that it’s something that they could do – overviews (eg. “I did this”) can’t always provide it; and while it’s nice for making you feel smart, there’s no point in throwing up a circuit diagram or complex maths in a presentation to students which will just turn people off because it is intimidating.
  • The tour guide was an electrical engineer in charge of the control systems on the steering wheel (all of the driver’s controls except the gear change are on the wheel).. even if I weren’t remotely interested in motorsport I would still be happy with that job it sounds like. Just goes to reinforce what I learnt when I worked in the power industry: a discipline doesn’t define the engineers within it.
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