Infiniti Engineering Academy Winners

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Engineering Academy

In addition to its expertise in Performance Hybrid technology, INFINITI also brings an international diversity of young, fresh-thinking engineering talent to the Renault Sport Formula One™ Team through its highly successful INFINITI Engineering Academy.

2017 is the fourth edition of this global recruitment program that offers engineering students from all over the world a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join a unique automotive and motorsport placement, thanks to the technical partnership and strong collaboration between INFINITI Motor Company and the Renault Sport Formula One Team. In fact, a key pillar of the INFINITI Engineering Academy is exploring crossover opportunities and the sharing of technology between INFINITI and Renault Sport Formula One Team projects.

“Thanks to our close Technical Partnership with the Renault Sport Formula One Team, we can offer seven engineers from all over the world a technically rich, multi-discipline and multi-cultural engineering placement. We are really proud to see this project growing year after year and our past Academy Engineers being so successful in their careers. The level of interest we are receiving from students all over the world is absolutely fantastic,” said Tommaso Volpe, Director, INFINITI Global Motorsport.

INFINITI believes that the most daring, forward-looking technology is driven by human talent. The INFINITI Engineering Academy is INFINITI's global search for the best and brightest young engineering talent to work across automotive and Formula One engineering. The Academy provides a 12-month, money-can’t-buy opportunity for seven world-class students, working at both INFINITI’s Technical Centre for Europe and at the Renault Sport Formula One Team.

In an era in which automotive and Formula One technologies are growing closer than ever, especially with the introduction of modern hybrid Formula One powertrains, the INFINITI Engineering Academy offers a unique opportunity to nurture young talents across the two industries.

Having retained several previous INFINITI Academy Engineers on a full-time basis, the Academy is a leading technical recruitment initiative in Formula One. The seven key regions in 2017 are Asia & Oceania, Canada, China, Europe (including Russia), Mexico, Middle East and the USA.

As ever, the selection process is comprehensive. Using an independent international recruitment organization, candidates are initially vetted by their résumé. Then, and as an addition to the 2017 edition recruitment process, the applicants have to complete an online engineering puzzle test designed by puzzle and brainteaser experts Brilliant.org, before going through to a video interview.

As a result, the ten best applicants will be carefully selected in each region, based on both their technical and personal skills. The ten finalist will be invited to take part in a regional final event held over the summer, where they will get the chance to secure the place available for their region.

Each one of the seven regional finals will consist of assessments testing aptitude, team work, individual knowledge and focus under pressure, resulting in one successful finalist per region.

The seven successful candidates will have all necessary arrangements made to commence work. All current students (except first-year students) of engineering-related disciplines can apply for the INFINITI Engineering Academy, and they must be both a resident and a student of a participating region to qualify.

For more information on the INFINITI Engineering Academy, please visit academy.infiniti.com.

Q&A with the 2016/17 INFINITI ACADEMY ENGINEERS

Riccardo Manfredini (Europe)

Q: What was your initial reaction to learning that you had been selected for the INFINITI Engineering Academy 2016/17?

A: When I heard I was the winner of the European regional final, I really couldn’t believe it. It was such an incredible moment and it actually took a few days before it had sunk in and I realized that I had won.

Q: In which regional final did you compete, and what was the selection process like?

A: I competed in the European regional final. The selection for the European region started with uploading my résumé and covering letter and answering some general questions. After this phase, selected students would be invited to a Skype interview. The best ten would then go on to attend the regional final: two days of challenges, such as building a hybrid car, media events, interviews, a factory design challenge and a technical exam.

Q: What types of projects are you working on at INFINITI?

A: Whilst working with INFINITI, I’ve been working on multiple projects, mainly focusing on the aerodynamic optimization of INFINITI vehicles through wind tunnel and CFD testing. Additionally, I’ve been studying flow control devices for INFINITI vehicles as part of my thesis.

Q: How has this helped you develop as an engineer and a person?

A: This experience has not only helped me to develop my engineering skills but it has also allowed me to improve my communication and soft skills. Furthermore, I now have a much greater understanding of the road vehicle industry and processes.

Q: You’re about to begin your placement in Formula One. What are you looking forward to the most?

A: I’m really looking forward to getting into the Formula One world and working with the Renault Sport Formula One Team. In particular, I want to be able to prove myself and suggest ideas in such a challenging environment.

Q: What advice would you give to young engineers applying for this year's INFINITI Engineering Academy?

A: To those who apply for this year’s INFINITI Engineering Academy, I would suggest putting all their efforts into the selection process in order to gain a chance to win this unique and incredible opportunity.

Caitlin Bunt (US)

Q: What was your initial reaction to learning that you had been selected for the INFINITI Engineering Academy 2016/17?

A: I was ecstatic when they announced my name! Soon after, a wave of relief washed over me as I realized that I had finally made it into the motorsport industry. I had worked so hard to get to this point in my life, so I couldn’t wait to get my head down and work extremely hard over the following year to prove that I was worthy of this incredible experience.

Q: In which regional final did you compete, and what was the selection process like?

A: I am the 2016 US winner of the INFINITI Engineering Academy. Overall, I was very impressed with the selection process. I felt that the various activities allowed the judges to see the finalists in different roles to fully understand whether they were the best fit for the Academy. The selection process began with an online application where applicants answered several questions. Then, the applicant pool was narrowed down with one-to-one Skype interviews. Following these interviews, the applicant pool was again narrowed down, this time to the ten finalists for each of the seven regions. Each region then held a final to determine the regional winner. My final took place at the INFINITI US headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee. Over two days, we took an individual written exam, participated in two group activities, and had a panel interview. I really enjoyed the group activities. I am a very competitive person by nature so I was excited when they divided us into 2 teams to build hybrid cars that would race against each other. Working effectively as a team (including communicating effectively) is such an important part of successful automotive and motorsport companies, and the Academy final absolutely puts that to the test.

Q: What types of projects are you working on at INFINITI?

A: My placement at the INFINITI Technical Centre in Cranfield has been really interesting. I’m working in the Chassis department, specifically within Ride and Handling.

I have had the opportunity to work on both group projects and independent projects. I’ve been involved with dynamic performance simulations, steering systems, new technology evaluations, stability control, and more. I have been impressed by the number of engineering tools at my disposal during this placement. I have worked on projects in AdamsCar, CarSim, Matlab, and Simulink during my time with INFINITI.

Q: How has this helped you develop as an engineer and a person?

A: Technically, this placement has allowed me to learn about the methodology that INFINITI employs when taking a car from the design phase all the way through production. I have had the opportunity to see the INFINITI Q30 being built at the plant in Sunderland. The speed at which the cars are built is impressive! That experience led to a critical realization of how INFINITI engineers must design components in a way that is intuitive and repeatable during assembly.

Additionally, I have improved my public speaking and presentation skills. One of the responsibilities of INFINITI academy engineers is representing the INFINITI brand in an ambassador role. This role allowed me to learn about marketing and media relations, experiences that have helped me to become a more well-rounded engineer.

Q: You’re about to begin your placement in Formula One. What are you looking forward to the most?

A: I will be working in the Vehicle Performance Group when I transfer to the Renault Sport Formula One team. I thrive in high-pressure, fast-paced working environments, so I am really looking forward to working with the team during the 2017 season. I am excited to learn from inventive, like-minded individuals who are similarly passionate about motorsport.

Q: What advice would you give to young engineers applying for this year's INFINITI Engineering Academy?

A: My advice for this year’s applicants is to develop yourself into a well-rounded engineer, both technically and otherwise. Teamwork and communication skills can be just as important as innovative thinking in any automotive or motorsport engineering role.

I’m sure the competition will be even closer this year, so be sure to bring your A-game!

Jaden Partridge (Asia-Oceania)

Q: What was your initial reaction to learning that you had been selected for the INFINITI Engineering Academy 2016/17?

A: First surprise, then relief. The pursuit of working in motorsport has been one that has driven me all my life, to be recognized as worthy of such an opportunity as the INFINITI Engineering Academy was a huge relief after all the hard work. I’d met nine other very capable and strong candidates in my final, who were all deserving of the opportunity, so I’m very fortunate to be selected winner.

Q: In which regional final did you compete, and what was the selection process like?

A: Coming from Australia, I was competing against other students from the Asia and Oceania region. My regional final was at the INFINITI HQ in Hong Kong and was two days of assessment. The selection process is extremely rigorous and you are placed in high-pressure situations with nine other very competitive candidates. The challenges put in place are there to test your practical skills, engineering knowledge, and your ability to operate effectively as part of a team.

Q: What types of projects are you working on at the Renault Sport Formula One Team?

A: I’m currentlyplaced at the Renault Sport Formula One Team in Enstone working in the Vehicle Performance Group in the Performance Optimisation subsection.

I’ve worked on projects around R&D tire tests, lap simulation, the driver in the loop simulator and track data analysis. The highlight of my placement has been my role during the Shanghai and Bahrain Grand Prix, where I was working as an event support engineer analyzing live data and supporting the race team during P1, P2, and Qualifying. This also meant I was part of all the debriefs and meetings at the track via radio link, where I received a rare insight into trackside operations. I have also been fortunate enough to support the strategy team from the factory during races.

Q: How has this helped you develop as an engineer and a person?

A: The last six months has been a period of significant personal and professional growth. I’ve moved to a new country, started living in an international household with people I’d never met, worked in my first big engineering company and managed to survive a British winter! I work in a group of 16 others, spanning 12 countries, so I have gained a much greater appreciation of other cultures and have been able to mix with other people who all made the same leap of faith and left their comfort zone in their home countries to follow their passion. It truly is a testament that Formula One is an international effort. Surrounding yourself with high caliber and innovative people pushes you to improve yourself. I have learned just as much in the cafeteria as I have at my desk by having access to these extremely knowledgeable people! Chris Dyer, the fellow Australian and one of the judges at my regional final, is the manager of Vehicle Performance Group. I have had the opportunity to see how a race engineer who has won three world titles, two with Michael Schumacher and one with Kimi Raikkonen, thinks and works. I one day aspire to be a race engineer, so to work with him and have him available for advice has been extremely advantageous.

Q: You’re about to begin your placement with INFINITI. What are you looking forward to the most?

A: Soon I switch to the INFINITI Technical Centre Europe in Cranfield where I will work in the Suspension and Tyre department. I will be presented with challenges not seen in my stint in Formula One relating to mass production and the importance of the consumer. The automotive industry is on the verge of the biggest revolution since the invention of the internal combustion engine. With new technology revolving around alternative powertrains, autonomous driving, connected vehicles and big data, there has never been a more interesting time to be part of this industry.

Q: What advice would you give to young engineers applying for this year's INFINITI Engineering Academy?

A: My advice to prospective Academy Engineers would be to just give it a go. I was, at first, hesitant when I completed my online application as I thought I would have no chance. I was by no means ‘top of my class’ in any of my education, and I came from a regional area. If I made it here, then it goes to show where motivation and commitment can take you. If you share the passion for working in the pinnacle of automotive and motorsport engineering, and you are an individual seeking challenges then you owe it to yourself to apply for the INFINITI Engineering Academy.

Felix Lamy (Canada)

Q: What was your initial reaction to learning that you had been selected for the INFINITI Engineering Academy 2016/17?

A: Winning the INFINITI Engineering Academy was extremely exciting. I was very happy to be one step closer to my dream of working on advanced road and race car engineering projects. I couldn’t really believe what had just happened. It took a few days to realize that I would be spending the next year in England, working for both INFINITI and the Renault Sport Formula One Team.

Q: In which regional final did you compete, and what was the selection process like?

A: I competed in the Canadian final, held in Montreal. The final allowed us to show our leadership skills in various team challenges, prove our technical knowledge in a technical exam and demonstrate our passion in a panel interview with senior engineers from both INFINITI and Renault Sport Formula One Team.

Q: What types of projects are you working on at the Renault Sport Formula One Team?

A: During the last 6 months at Renault Sport Formula One Team, I have been involved in multiple design projects in the Composites Design Department. I have also worked on Composites R&D for next year’s car, RS18, which was interesting and exciting.

Q: How has this helped you develop as an engineer and a person?

A: As an engineer, what a better place to develop your skill set and your knowledge than working at a Formula One team and being actively involved in their projects? Additionally, this was my first time living abroad. It has been very cool to live in the UK and living in Oxford has been a really great experience; the culture is so rich, and there are so many things to discover and concerts to attend.

Q: You’re about to begin your placement with INFINITI. What are you looking forward to the most?

A: I am looking forward to working in the Vehicle Dynamics Department at INFINITI. This will be quite a change from my placement at Renault Sport Formula One Team, but I am excited to learn new concepts and work in a different field of engineering.

Q: What advice would you give to young engineers applying for this year's INFINITI Engineering Academy?

A: Be yourself and consider how you are going to stand out from the other applicants. Be confident of your skillset and focus on the projects you have done that demonstrate your creativity, ingenuity, and the passion you have for motorsport and automotive engineering.

Sally Li (China)

Q: What was your initial reaction to learning that you had been selected for the INFINITI Engineering Academy 2016/17?

A: It felt unbelievable at first as I never expected it. After some time, I still thought I was in a dream and it took me a quite long time to accept that my dream had come true.

Q: In which regional final did you compete, and what was the selection process like?

A:I was in the China regional final. I had the Skype interview after submitting my résumé. Following this, ten of us were selected, from hundreds of applications, to take part in the regional final in Beijing. At the final, we had technical exams, two very interesting activities, and a panel interview. The final includes two judges from INFINITI and one from the Renault Sport Formula One Team.

Q: What types of projects are you working on at the Renault Sport Formula One Team?

A: I am working in the aero department. My mission is to add aerodynamic performance to the racecar using development tools such as CFD and Wind Tunnel. In particular, I have been working on developing the range of rear wings, in an attempt to extract more performance from them.

Q: How has this helped you develop as an engineer and a person?

A: I have always been passionate about race cars and always curious to learn how everything is made and how it works. I spent most of my time at university working with racecars, during which I found that engineering is not only about what we learned from a book, but also about the experience. The more experience I gain, the more determined I am to become an engineer and to realize my dream.

Q: You’re about to begin your placement with INFINITI. What are you looking forward to the most?

A: I realize that there is a huge difference in racecar and road car aerodynamics. So the philosophy and methodology are diverse in developing it. I am quite looking forward to learning the difference between automotive and motorsport engineering and having a more general perspective on aero. I am also looking forward to potentially seeing what I design to be mass-produced.

Q: What advice would you give to young engineers applying for this year's INFINITI Engineering Academy?

A: Have a try. It is a chance to challenge yourself. Don’t be afraid of losing, because you have nothing to lose but you will have a chance to realize your dream.

Alex Palaiologos (Mexico)

Q: What was your initial reaction to learning that you had been selected for the INFINITI Engineering Academy 2016/17?

A: Great excitement! I was very happy after being selected as one of the winners for the INFINITI Engineering Academy 2016 and excited to start my placement. Immediately after being announced as the winner, I called my parents. This is definitely one of the biggest achievements in my life, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to start my working career.

Q: In which regional final did you compete, and what was the selection process like?

A: I competed in the Mexico regional final. The selection process was very challenging in terms of working out of your comfort zone and working as a team with a group of very competitive and well-prepared engineers. I really enjoyed competing in my final.

Q: What types of projects are you working on at INFINITI?

A: I am currently working at the INFINITI Technical Centre in Cranfield in the Body Design department, specifically in the platform design. I am very proud to say that components I’ve designedare going to be on the INFINITI production cars in years to come.

Q: How has this helped you develop as an engineer and a person?

A: I think being part of this program has allowed me to grow both professionally and personally. Being able to be a team player on this global team, working with people from all over the world. Although we are all engineers, we come from different backgrounds, which makes us propose different solutions to the same problems. And, in particular working at the INFINITI plant for one week as an operator helped me appreciate the hard work that the operators put in every day assembling the cars; it’s a relentless job. This opened my eyes, making me realize that you have to design towards simplifying the work for the operator as well as achieving all the targets.

Q: You’re about to begin your placement in Formula One. What are you looking forward to the most?

A: I think what I’m looking most forward to is the work pace, and making decisions on your feet. Additionally, I’m very excited to contribute to the development of not only this year’s car, but next year’s car.

Q: What advice would you give to young engineers applying for this year's INFINITI Engineering Academy?

A: Always let your passion drive your career, don’t be intimidated, work on your social skills, and be prepared to work out of your comfort zone. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Shihab Solaiman (Middle East)

Q: What was your initial reaction to learning that you had been selected for the INFINITI Engineering Academy 2016/17?

A: As cliché as it sounds, it was probably one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced. The moment I heard David Moss announce my name, I was absolutely stunned and couldn’t believe I had achieved a feat of such magnitude.

Q: In which regional final did you compete, and what was the selection process like?

A: I was part of the Middle East Regional Final. The selection process was extremely thorough and intense. Given the level of scrutiny the candidates go under, where the Academy look for competence in a wide range of engineering and ambassadorial skillset, it can by a very daunting challenge for the applicants. Obviously competing against some of the best in the region is no easy task but that it what makes winning the final even more rewarding.

Q: What types of projects are you working on at INFINITI?

A: At INFINITI, I’m working on power electronics and vehicle integration/packaging in the Advanced Engineering Department. In addition to that, I’ve been doing a lot of human-machine interface research where I get to recommend innovative ideas for future implementation in INFINITI road cars.

Q: How has this helped you develop as an engineer and a person?

A: The Academy gave me my first insight into the automotive industry and it has been a steep learning curve since day one. Experiencing the scale and detail of engineering expertise that goes into making production cars and being able to learn and contribute makes the INFINITI Engineering Academy an exceptional package. I’ve gained a lot of knowledge in terms of decision making, using engineering tools and time management which benefit me both as an engineer and also in my day to day activities.

Q: You’re about to begin your placement in Formula One. What are you looking forward to the most?

A: Moving from INFINITI to the Renault Sport Formula One Team will be interesting. It will enable me to see how the company culture shifts from thinking of large-scale global production to optimizing the performance of two race cars. Formula One is pretty cut-throat and rightly so, I look forward to the pace of development and the impact my contributions have on track performance.

Q: What advice would you give to young engineers applying for this year's INFINITI Engineering Academy?

A: Trust your skills and instincts. If you make it to the regional final, then be yourself and let your personality and passion shine through. It’s a free shot at glory, so make sure you take it.