As my friends (and wife) are all very well aware, I’m a car guy.I love BMW’s. I follow NASCAR. And Formula 1.
On a recent business trip to Germany, I got to tour the BMW factory in Munich.
I’m also an engineering guy.
It’s what I do. It’s what I love to do.
So it’s not surprising that a recent article over on IEEE Spectrum caught my eye.
Rick Mahurin is a Purdue engineering grad who’s a data acquisition engineer for Walker Racing, where he gets to do things like analyze what’s going on with cars like a $650K Porsche 911 GT3 RSR that was Team Falken Tire/Walker Racing’s entrant last year in the American LeMans Series.
These days, pretty much all cars are high tech, but race cars are high tech on steroids, chocked full of sensors that measure all sorts of things: tire pressure, temperature, engine speed. Rick Mahurin’s car has over 300 of them.
As cars fly by him on the track, he sits in the pit and concentrates on three computer screens, which provide continuously updated plots of data beaming from the Porsche. If he notices any measurements creeping outside their normal ranges, he radios an alert to the crew chief, who is also in the pit but unable to hear anything above the din beyond what is sent to his headphones. (Source: IEEE Spectrum)
Like most engineers, Rick is also a tinkerer, and between races, he’s fine tuning the car’s systems. In the wake of a crash,
… he spent a week scrutinizing the sensors on the car to be sure they weren’t damaged. He installed some new electronics for collecting and processing the raw sensor readings as well as junction boxes designed to simplify the wiring of the car’s onboard video system.
His tinkering paid off, and at the next week’s race, the Porsche came in first.
Silicon and software, as much as rubber and steel, made that win possible, Mahurin notes proudly. “When the systems that you have in place enable you to do your job, and it all comes out the way it’s supposed to, it’s a joy.”
Now I’m not saying I want Rick Mahurin’s job. I like my own brand of combining silicon and software just fine.
But I’ve got to say, for a car-loving engineer, his sure sounds like a dream job.