Fostering design talent
WITH student engineers from across Australia and 12 different countries set to descend on the North East this December for design competition Formula SAE Australia, Wangaratta’s Geoff Pearson is looking forward to helping others foster their engineering skills. “Hands-on work gets people together and creates real relationships,” Geoff said. He has been engrossed in engineering since his youth, when he worked in the motorcycle industry straight out of high school. At the age of 30, he decided to go back to university, and began attending RMIT in 1998 to study mechanical engineering, concentrating on automotive engineering. During a gap in his studies, he spent time working at Holden, which piqued his interest in working with design engineers themselves and leading people. “I like to look at design from a creative point of view, and learn how you encourage creativity,” he said. Geoff joined RMIT’s Formula SAE team in 2002, which gave him a practical outlet for his engineering expertise and helped him hone his leadership skills. Formula SAE cars can be either combustion engine or electrically powered, and all aspects of the project must be completed by the students. In 2003, he became the chief engineer of the team, and they competed in the Australasian event.
The team then qualified to compete in England in the equivalent European event in 2004, which the RMIT team won outright with their vehicle, built on a shoestring budget of $10,000. “It was a real pleasure,” Geoff said, adding that it has been a highlight of his engineering career. “I worked with such brilliant people, and it was really nice project to be a part of.” Geoff continued into postgraduate studies at RMIT and kept mentoring the team, which has continued to go from strength to strength, including taking out the Australasian Formula SAE championship in 2006. Following his studies, he got involved in the Society of Automotive Engineers, including a brief stint as its executive director, but after his Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis in 2009, he had to scale back his commitments. But Geoff is philosophical about living with the condition, saying it has helped him focus on what is most important in his life. “You have to really focus your energies, and limit the battles that you fight,” he said. Moving to Wangaratta around three years ago, he said he has been keen for several years to help bring a big Formula SAE event to the area, and he is excited for the Formula SAE Australasia competitive event to be taking place this December at Winton Motor Raceway. “I was really keen to bring it up here,” he said. “It gets a fair bit of interest.” Geoff said the growing popularity of science, engineering and other related courses in the area, as well as the growing visibility of school engineering and robotics teams, show the community interest in fostering tech talent. “It gives them a perspective of where they could go with their studies,” he said. Geoff said more people should get involved in engineering and similar fields as a career to help built Australia’s reputation for innovation. “We’re a very hands-on nation, we just need more leadership and vision,” he said. Geoff, the volunteer coordinator of the December event, said that volunteers aged over 18 are currently being sought in a number of capacities to help the December event run smoothly. Formula SAE Australasia will be held at Winton Motor Raceway from December 6 to 10. For further details, including information on volunteering, visit www.saea.com.au.
◆ SHARING HIS PASSION: Geoff Pearson, seen here in Wangaratta manning an information stand on Formula SAE in early September, enjoys encouraging creativity and engineering talent.
◆ WINNING SPIRIT: Geoff Pearson (at bottom left) with his RMIT teammates during Formula Student competition in 2004.