Mechanical Team Lead – Maya Zhang

I joined the team at the beginning of the B7 cycle, when I was in second year. My intention was to gain hands-on design skills, and Blue Sky stood out as the largest design team on campus with a focus on educating its members as well as competing. Knowing nothing about cars or design, I jumped in headfirst and spent the next year and a half working on various small mechanical projects – steering, hub optimization, and a whole lot of FEA.

I didn’t go to the race in 2013 due to being on PEY, and only started as a team lead in February. My experience so far can be most strongly related to going down the proverbial rabbit hole. We always tell new members that “the more time and effort you put in, the more you’ll get out of this,” and this has definitely held true for me. It’s been a steep learning curve the whole way through, and there’s still times when I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing.

As a mechanical team lead, I’m responsible for the overall design and testing of the systems that make the car safe and driveable. These components range from rims to suspension to chassis and everything in between. It really is an endless array (not to be confused with the not-endless solar array) of challenges. On the technical side, my co-lead, Kshitij, and I work to incorporate “Design for X” elements of manufacturability, weight and cost along with physical requirements and limitations. Each design decision must also be considered in the broader scope of integration and trade-offs with other systems. On the organizational side, we manage our group of mechanical team members in their various contributions.

For me, the best part of the Blue Sky project is twofold (similar to Lays chips, I couldn’t have just one). Firstly, it gives me the opportunity to learn by doing and teaching, without the safety net of taking a course on that exact subject beforehand. It’s helping me develop the kind of problem solving skills that come from drawing information from multiple sources, figuring things out through trial and error, and iterating over and over. Secondly and equally as important, it gives me the chance to work closely with talented, passionate individuals who share a common cause. After all the hours and effort that everyone puts in, to step back at the end and say “I made that!” is the best feeling in the world.

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