When she's not in the thick of Formula SAE activity or interning at McLaren, conjoint student Lizzy is studying towards a BE(Hons) in Mechanical Engineering and BSc in Physics.
Lizzy Grant had the chance to see the Formula SAE (FSAE) workshop on a Year 13 school trip, which set her on the path to FSAE Team Leader and McLaren intern.
Despite not being completely aware of where an engineering degree might take her, Lizzy’s passion for physics and maths at high school made it an obvious path to aim for. She was inspired by her physics teacher too, but her decision was made easier by a tour of the FSAE workshop in her final year of school.
“That [tour] definitely set in that I wanted to come to the University of Auckland and I wanted to join FSAE,” she said. “I wanted to join the team because obviously what they do is cool, but I'd always been really academic in high school, and I hadn't done much in the way of leadership or extracurricular activities, so I wanted to get better at that whole side of it.”
Each year the FSAE team has to design and build a car from scratch which is then shipped over to Melbourne for a competition for universities across Australasia. It’s an opportunity for students to see the real-world applications of what they learn in class, and also to gain valuable experience working on a multidisciplinary project with real stakeholders. Lizzy’s role within the team grew from Business Leader, to Deputy Team Leader, and then eventually Team Leader in 2018 when the team came third – their equal best result. Her experience with the team made her a worthy recipient of the Bruce McLaren Automotive Award, which led to her interning at the company towards the end of 2019 – an amazing opportunity for someone with Lizzy’s career goals and FSAE background.
“It was definitely pretty unreal because I think back to my first year when the scholarship was first released, and I remember the kind of people that were applying and they all seemed really incredible,” she says. “I think about how far I've come and the fact I ended up at McLaren is pretty incredible. I don't think it's something I could have predicted.”
Lizzy had the unique opportunity of cycling through a number of teams within McLaren’s automotive division to get an insight into every step of the lifecycle of these vehicles. Along with highlights like getting a ride in a McLaren Senna piloted by one of their test drivers, the internship allowed Lizzy to see how a world-leading engineering company operates and understand why they’re at the forefront in their industry.
I think the attitude in the company really helped with that because it's sort of a medium sized company. They have around 3,000 to 4,000 people so not they’re not tiny, but not as big as a company like Ford, for example. So the people in the company have to be really adaptable and put their ideas forward and be innovative, which I don't know if you get as much at some of the bigger, more rigid companies.
Since 2016, our FSAE team has solely built electric vehicles, which allowed Lizzy and the rest of the students involved to get a headstart at understanding and working with emerging and influential technology. Combined with her recent time at McLaren, these experiences have led to Lizzy wanting to stay connected to technologies that are future-focused, whether in industry or through further study.
“I think my time at McLaren has made me realise I do want to be right at the forefront of technology,” she said. “I really want to work on something that's a new technology, not necessarily cars as much as I love them, but something that's really groundbreaking and also quite research-driven as well. I think I'd really enjoy that.”