Living & Learning / I have been shaped by challenges

Courtesy of Wataru Kawamoto

Wataru Kawamoto, front row left, with members of the aerodynamics group of the Southampton University Formula Student Team

By Wataru Kawamoto (University of Southampton) / Special To The Japan News Southampton may be known for Japanese football player Maya Yoshida, who plays for Southampton FC, or for its famous port where the RMS Titanic departed before sinking. The reason why I am studying here, however, has nothing to do with them. Formula One, the highest division in motor racing, is the reason. The United Kingdom is known as the centre of the motorsport industry, and the University of Southampton is especially famous in the field of aerodynamics — a vital element to make a race car quicker — and this is what I am studying.

As an engineering student, I like the fact that there are many opportunities to design, manufacture and test in the regular study programmes. In addition, the number of engineering extracurricular projects is satisfying, and all students are welcome to join them. This means that there are a lot of chances to apply what has been learnt in lectures on practical engineering challenges.

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I have been participating in Formula Student as an extracurricular project; a team of university students designs and manufactures an open-wheel car to compete against other universities from around the world. In my second year on the team, I was promoted to Joint Head of Aerodynamics. However, I was still a second-year student, so leading the development of the aerodynamics of the car and simulation techniques was a nightmare. My teammates and I tried and failed many times. It did not always go as the textbooks or lecturers said. Things were more complicated in practice. Bringing about a negative result by missing one trivial factor is easy, but the process of identifying an error in practice gave us an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the subject.

As a matter of fact, this is the same as for everything else. I am always ignorant at the beginning, so I have challenged myself, struggled and made a lot of mistakes throughout my university life in the U.K. However, from these countless numbers of mistakes in practice, I have learnt a lot, and I have been shaped. These lessons and experiences eventually helped me to secure a one-year placement in a Formula One team, my dream job.

Completing this placement, I am now back at the university as a final-year student. This is just another year full of challenges.

To be honest, taking on a new thing and putting it into practice is always scary to me, but what can we really learn without challenging ourselves?

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