Learning at the School of Engineering involves much more than attending lectures. Here, three students recount their testing and fulfilling experiences in hands-on engineering design competitions

Aaron Chung Faat Yau

BEng, Mechanical Engineering (2016)
Sunstrider Team
New Energy New Generation Solar Car Competition

Aaron (right of solar car, kneeling) and Sunstrider team members, together with Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering faculty and staff.

As a car enthusiast who has dreamed of building a real car, entering HKUST, one of the world’s top universities for engineering, had always been my holy grail. During my four years at the University, I accumulated invaluable experiences through participating in both local and international engineering competitions.

In my final year, I was thrilled to hear from Prof Robin Ma, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, that the Hong Kong government was organizing its first solar car competition. Not long after learning the good news, I invited several classmates to join me in entering this pioneering competition, organized by the Environment Bureau and the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department. Eventually, we gathered together a group of 10, and named ourselves ‘Sunstrider’.

Creating a team was only the first of many challenges we needed to face in the next nine months. Throughout the preparatory stages, there were many differences of opinion among team members in areas ranging from prototype-building to buying solar panels, purchasing motors to where to put the solar panels. However, as I learned from the competition, one of the best ways to solve such problems is to articulate the reason and ultimate aim behind every opinion or action you contribute to your team. In other words, you constantly have to make sure you understand and are understood by your teammates. After all, we all had the same goal – to draw the world’s attention to an eye-popping solar car built by HKUST engineering students.

Along the way, the team engaged in various tests and manufacturing, including solar panel absorbance and conversion testing, aerodynamics simulations, stress testing, carbon fiber manufacturing, battery loading testing, solar tracking testing, and more. And thanks to solid support from our professors and the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, we managed to build the most efficient solar car in terms of energy in the contest and win the Energy Efficient Design Award.

The solar car competition was a life-changing event for me. Not only did I benefit from the hands-on experience of building a real car, but it also acted as a catalyst for my future career development. Ahead of graduation, I received an offer from Honda Motor Co Ltd to work as an engineer in Japan. I strongly recommend all students to participate in competitions during your years at HKUST. The experience is sure to be unforgettable.