Muireann Spain was a key member of our inaugural UCDFS team in 2018/19. She tells us her experiences looking back on the project and how it’s helped shape her career as a Systems Engineer at Waymo.
1. What have you been doing since you graduated?
Right now, I work for Waymo (formerly the Google self-driving car project) in Silicon Valley, California. I’m a systems engineer and my main role is to test the onboard software, i.e. does our autonomous car do what we expect it to do and does it comply with road rules.
2. Why did you choose to get involved in Formula Student?
I got involved with UCDFS the year it began, 2018/2019, which coincided with my final year at UCD. I got involved because I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, and most of the internships I’d done before weren’t too interesting! I thought that getting exposure to the automotive industry couldn’t hurt, and it turned out to be the totally right thing for me – I ended up switching from a masters in energy engineering to a masters in control and robotics instead.
3. What was your role in UCDFS?
I was on the suspension team. There were five of us altogether on the team, and I mainly stuck to the R&D side of things. I read volumes about race car dynamics to try and help us make informed decisions in design so we didn’t have any unexpected failures.
4. Did your experience in FS help you to develop skills and knowledge that you see as essential for young engineers to succeed in their first role in industry?
Absolutely – first and foremost, taking part in an extracurricular project (of any kind, it doesn’t have to be FS related) is a huge indicator to employers that you enjoy what you study, and that you’re engaging with the material – this is more important than a perfect GPA. It also gives you a chance to try new things that you wouldn’t usually get exposure to in regular coursework, and you get a feel for what you like and (more importantly) don’t like!
5. What’s your fondest memory of the project?
The best thing for me was going to the workshop – actually being handed a welder and just given the chance to just practice was incredible. I feel that we’d learned so much about welding in college but never really developed any practical experience with it. Even though it was freezing in the workshop, we were all so excited the first real day that things started happening with the build.
6. What advice would you give this year’s FS students?
I think that everyone should try and get some exposure to things that they wouldn’t usually do. One of my biggest regrets about FS is not really knowing what was going on on other team as I let my team lead do all the collaborating. Talking to other teams, helping them out, getting exposure to some design if you’re in electronic engineering, and learning bits about circuits for mechanical engineers are all important. But the most important thing is to enjoy what you are doing! Although it’s a competition, making friends and having incredible learning experiences mean the most.