20 December 2020 08:00

FS in times of CoVid -19 – two sides of a story

During the pandemic, we talked to some Formula Student Teams to understand how Corona affects their work. One of the teams, CURE from DHBW Mannheim in Germany told us their story on the emotional rollercoaster of 2020. In the middle of building the 4th car Covid turned their world upside down.

 

 

Wednesday, 11th March 2020
🧐  

Already in the beginning of 2020 we were excited about what this season would bring. With our two cars in the making, we wanted to set the basis for the transition to a car with autonomous features. We planned to build one new vehicle whilst reusing our previous year’s car to gain experience with driverless functions. Besides the rising pandemic situation, we were determined to succeed this season. In mid-March however, it became clear to us that the Covid-19 pandemic would have a greater impact than one had previously assumed. To our surprise the University, DHBW Mannheim, stopped all courses on site at the beginning of March.

 
Thursday, 19th March 2020
😰  

Consequently, our Project- and Team Managers acted quickly and decided all together to stop the work at the workshop located on the DHBW Mannheim campus.

 
Sunday, 22nd March 2020
😭  

Two weeks later something happened that had seemed unimaginable: FSG cancelled this year's competition. As other European events also announced that no physical event would take place, we were devastated. Suddenly, our motivation and courage of the previous months just vanished. We felt sad, discouraged, and fearful at the same time. What would our Sponsors say if we would not be able to compete? How do we finance all our expenses? Was all the hard work for nothing? Just as any other FS Team we were in shock.

 
April to June 2020
💪  

This strange situation required one thing above all from us: a lot of organizational talent. Converting physical meetings to online conferences or setting up a way to track tasks virtually posed small but immediate challenges. As the dust was settling, it became clear what was in front of us: This situation was not a minor “thing” that would pass by as quickly as it had emerged. It would become the “new normal”.

Therefore, we asked ourselves how to make the most out of it. We sat together and decided to take the bold step to reorganise the whole team. First, we appointed new Project- and Team Managers that would be responsible for a smooth transition into the 2021 season. Especially with knowledge transfer we have experienced some difficulties in the past seasons. Therefore, we concluded that the new team leads should have enough time to get familiar with their responsibilities. Secondly, we figured out a new way of task tracking. With the lack of face-to-face communication and the quick feedback loops in the workshop we decided to establish a workflow in JIRA. Frequently used in Software development, Atlassian Jira is a great tool for jobs like planning weekly to do’s, tracking progress of the purchasing process or even collaborating with your teammates on certain tasks.

But we did not only improve our organizational setup. We changed our development plans for 2020 and started immediately to work on our long-term goals. Therefore, we developed the overall vehicle concept further by integrating driverless from the beginning. We set many deadlines to get the car up and running as early as possible to use the extra testing time. Furthermore, our business team worked intensively on new Business Plan ideas to also improve our performance in the static disciplines.

 
Thursday, 25th June 2020
🙂  

Finally, on the 25th of June our workshop was opened again! What a relief! Of course, under certain restrictions following our hygiene & communication concept which we had developed together with the University. It only allowed three people of a selected group of team members to enter at a time. Part of the hygiene measures was also to maintain the distance of 1.5 meters, wearing facial masks and constantly disinfecting surfaces.

 
Thursday, 30th July 2020
😄  

One month later the gates of the workshop finally opened for everyone. Beside the common measures, the team members also had to register in a dedicated list upon entering and leaving the workshop. The list would then be submitted to the DHBW Mannheim at the end of the working day to track the presence in case of a possible Covid-19 infection.

Throughout the summer we tried to avoid unnecessary physical contact and worked constantly on improving our virtual way of collaboration.

Even though we started to get along quite well within the new normal, one thing changed noticeably. Due to the economic situation many companies are reacting more cautiously to Sponsoring requests. The rate of termination of contracts or declining of inquiries is higher than ever. Purely financial support from companies is currently beyond question.

Still, we are fortunate enough to be able to count on our long-term partners who stand by us despite the difficult times. As a little appreciation for their support, we designed our own CURE masks as a goodie for partners, sponsors, stakeholders and of course team members.

 
Friday, 9th October 2020
🤯  

On October 9th our hygiene & communication concept and our patience were put to the test once again. A suspected Covid-19 case in the team forced us to stop all activities in the workshop. Fortunately, a few days later we learned that the test result was negative, so we were able to open the workshop again.

 
November to December
😍  

The last quarter of the year really boosted our motivation – The FS season finally to be kicked off! FSG published the date for the competition in 2021 and invited for the Main Academy and several Deep Dive workshops. The FS Symposium also scheduled their event. Throughout the course of the next weeks, we were busy joining the online session and starting to prepare for the quiz.

Looking back, 2020 was quite challenging for us, just like for anybody else. However, we must admit that it also pushed us to improvise and to see things from a different perspective. Without these circumstances, we probably would not have changed our team structure or would not have taken radical decisions in the vehicle concept.

Staying positive and looking at the other side of the story made us grow over the past months. We feel that once again the FS community grew together even without physically coming together.

We are looking forward to a new season and hope to meet you all next summer on the racetrack.

 

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