I continue to be amazed at the cool opportunties available for today's engineering school grads. The latest example comes from the Infiniti Performance Engineering Academy. In a quest to find the world’s best and brightest emerging engineering talent, the Academy is giving graduating engineering students the chance to apply for a one year assignment at Infiniti Red Bull Racing, the four-time Formula One World Championship-winning team (Milton Keynes, UK). The placement comes complete with a salary, shared accommodation and car lease, and the opportunity to attend this year's British Grand Prix.
Applicants must be graduating or in their final year of undergraduate study in 2014. But I have to quibble with Infiniti about one of its requirements. It says applicants must be able to provide evidence of a strong achieved or predicted degree result. In the U.S., that means having a GPA of 3.2 or better. I have to say, though, that some of the most promising engineers I knew in school had cruddy GPAs.
One guy in particular comes to mind: He spent so much time working on a student SAE project to create an environmentally friendly car that his grades were in the toilet. Yet the rest of the kids on the project universally viewed him as one of the most creative and engineering-savy team members among them. If this opportunity had been around back then, I'm afraid Infiniti wouldn't have given him a second look.
Then there was the case of another guy I knew whose senior project was to construct a digital clock -- this was back in the dark ages not that long after the first digital clock had been proposed in some guy's master's thesis. Digital clocks had just become commercial and were still novelties.
For his project, my friend had to dumpster dive for parts such as discarded memory chips. The discards typically had many of their leads broken off, so he had to carefully solder connections back onto the ICs and figure out how to map around the bad memory locations they contained. The enclosure for the clock was an old cardboard detergent box that he carefully painted and lacquered inside and out until it looked like a high-end case. In fact, the whole clock looked professionally done despite the fact it basically consisted of discards.
And that was the problem. The instructor refused to believe my friend had designed and constructed the whole thing from scratch. He thought it was just a kit. So my friend got a D in a rather important course grade though his project was likely the most creative one in his class.
Fortunately, Infiniti has incorporated an essay question into the application process which should give creative thinkers a chance to show their stuff. The question:
What future technology should Formula One be incorporating to keep road-relevant?
Infiniti says the 500-word answers should show an understanding of Formula One technology while demonstrating ideas that link to the wider automotive industry and Infiniti road cars in particular.
Here's a tip for potential applicants pondering how to answer this: I'd suggest leaving out any mention of F1 drivers texting while driving.