Meet Luke Horsfall – the 2012 Greenpower Challenge. By day Luke is working as a composite design engineer for Formaplex, a rapid engineering company that specializes in injection-mold tooling, composite tooling and plastic components. By night he’s technical director (and racer) at Horsfall Racing.
This past Sunday he was on hand to help budding engineers at the Greenpower south regional heat. Let’s learn a little more about Luke and see some pics of him in action.
Tell us about yourself. (What did you want to be when you grew up? How did you get interested in cars and Greenpower?)
“I always took an interest in cars, much like any 13 year old boy does, but it was more the fact I was fairly short at school that a friend asked me if I’d like to drive an electric race car. Naturally I jumped at the chance and by the end of the first season I’d secured over £1000 sponsorship, moved up from driver to team manager and was leading the design of our second car – the rest is history!”
What’s it take to be a Greenpower champion?
“For me it really was a case of a lot of hard work. Last year’s Championship was 11 seasons in the making and the latest car certainly wasn’t a winner straight away, it took one full season’s worth of development before it was able to challenge for wins. I spent thousands of hours working on the design of the vehicle and produced over 100 different iterations of iWhoosh (the car’s name) to run in CFD to ensure that we had the lowest drag vehicle in the competition. It definitely felt worth it though when I stood on the top step of the podium for the first time.”
How did Greenpower impact your choice of careers and prepare you for your work at Formaplex?
“Greenpower made me want to be an engineer; it’s as simple as that. I always enjoyed tinkering in the garage but never had a project to really apply myself to. This was perfect. Greenpower gave me reason to get out there and learn various types of composite mould making and laminating technique first-hand. It showed me that, as an individual, I could take on (and beat!) big automotive OEMs. It’s now that experience that I use every day to determine what’s feasible for us to manufacture.”
How did you get your gig at Formaplex?
“A friend of mine told me that they had seen a graduate position advertised at Formaplex and said that I ought to apply. So I did, having not been to university I wasn’t expecting to hear anything back, but my experience in the field showed that I didn’t just have a good grounding in this industry but that I had a passion for engineering and that I wanted to learn. I was all but offered the job on the spot!
We’ve subsequently taken on another Greenpower alumni on from a different team whilst they’re on their sandwich year at university.”
What’s a day in the life like for a “composite design engineer”? What’s the typical turnaround on your design work? What do you enjoy most about your work?
“Formaplex serves a huge range of high profile international customers including Formula One teams, automotive OEMs and defence contractors so projects can be incredibly varied. Some of our design work only affords us a couple of hours to turn raw component data in to a fully functioning tool design. I will then position the associated components in a way that they can then be machined as quickly and as efficiently as possible. The most satisfying part of my job is that I know when I watch a Grand Prix or Le Mans 24h or even if I’m just driving down the street I can see components that I’ve been involved in.”
What advice do you have for budding student engineers?
“Get out there and get your hands dirty! Degrees will open doors but it’s that hands on, extra-curricular experience that will really set you apart.”
Note in the picture above, the little person sticking their head through the fence just to catch a glimpse of Luke racing. Too cute. And highlights that programs like Greenpower impact more than just the students directly involved.
Thanks Luke for talking with us. Good luck in your work and studies and races!