X’Talk: How a Student Leverages Xmind in Building Race Cars
X’Talk: How a Student Leverages Xmind in Building Race Cars
What will come to your mind first when talking about mind mapping and students? Making a study plan, producing a good-looking course schedule, or taking notes during lectures and reading?
Joël Scholl, a college student studying at ETH Zürich, offers a completely different insight and experience.
A Student, Also an Engineer
Joël Scholl is a bachelor student in electrical engineering and information technology at ETH (German: Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich; English: Federal Institute of Technology Zurich), which is widely recognized for its influence in the progression of advancements in science and technology and consistently places as one of the best universities worldwide. He is in the last year of his bachelor’s studies and would like to continue with his Master’s studies in Robotics and Control. Looks like nothing more than a well-educated student with a bright future, right?
However, he has another interesting identity - a control systems engineer at AMZ Racing, working full time in a team of 16 focus students and many more motivated freelancers to build a groundbreaking race car for the formula student competition.
To understand Joël’s journey with Xmind, we may need to know what he does in the racing program first. Or, how is the racing program working?
Joël: "So to start a bit with what we do exactly, you may have heard about Formula Students. It is an engineering competition that is supposed to get engineers or student engineers from all over the world engaged in building the first-wheel product they ever get into contact with and it is primarily intended to groom future generations of engineers. And so this is what our team does this year - we have competed in 5 events all over Europe.”
“We have a core team which consists of 16 electrical and mechanical engineers and also some other students from another partner university. So we have exactly one year to start designing engineering and finally building a race car. The timeline starts in September approximately, and then you have time until Christmas I say to finish all your designs. But first, it all has to start with understanding because you have access to the designs from the previous years."
“For example, I was involved with programming the electrical control unit of the car. So my year started with trying to understand what the software is based on, why we chose to code the software that way, and what the requirements are."
“That's essentially where Xmind ties in because we use it to understand what has been done before we use it to take notes primarily. We use it also to take meeting notes and the likes to organize our thoughts to find solutions for problems that we've encountered, and to in general collect feedback.”
How Does Mind Mapping Help Build Racing Cars?
Building a finished car in one year is a rather difficult task, which imposes huge time pressure on Joël and his team especially when they have to understand processes and need to move on and take a decision.
“So we need to be fast about everything. It's not about being faster on the track, but also being fast in engineering, in understanding. Because the entire competition is in essence a race against time. So yeah, we use Xmind to take notes, quickly, in an organized way.”
This mind map was created when Joël prepared for an exam in control systems, which also helped him a lot to understand what he has to do on the race car, like the algorithms that they needed to get the car performance on track. This is essentially the notes of like, 6 months of lectures, on control systems. And that is what Joël and the team usually do - concentrating an abundant amount of information into one single thing. It was not easy until they started to use Xmind and its Equation.
“Being able to insert equations, that's also why I decided last year, to try your PRO subscription.”
Another essential benefit is that Xmind helps save a lot of time, as mentioned above. When Joël started to create the map, he only had two weeks before the exam, yet he needed to go through the topics of six months. And he did it!
“I believe a large part of what made this possible was being able to focus all of the information in one of these mind maps. So essentially what we love about your tool is being able to include, pictures or screenshots of what the lecture is showing.”
The racing program usually involves meeting after meeting when they need to structure their thoughts, find solutions for specific problems, and finally decide how to move on. And this is also where Xmind fits in their work.
“Sometimes we would sit together, cast Xmind map on the projector, and then collect thoughts and ideas on how we want to battle a specific problem.”
“We had 5 or 6 mind maps for larger meetings, which were based on like really large concept decisions. So for example, if we discuss things like software refactoring or decide on entirely new concepts, that is a tool that we can use to help us with the decision.”
School Task or Racing Program?
When asked “Is the map for your school task or the racing program?”, Joël gave quite an impressive explanation which is possibly a valued inspiration for other students.
For him, school education provides a solid theoretical basis for the real application in programs. However, these are only useful when combined with solving real problems and making significant improvements in programs. In other words, the purpose of choosing a lecture on control systems and control algorithms is to serve the tasks of engineering the control design of the car.
“So essentially it's used for me to be able to conduct what I do on the race car. It was also like the first instance of where my studies helped me do something in real life or real engineering. Before I felt like it was just useless theory that you were getting into, but like this, it was the first time I was able to combine theory with actual practical problems that I encounter in daily life. That's what it was really useful for.”
Seeing the car automatically run on the track based on the control system design himself made Joël realize his great interest in control systems and the software behind control, and triggered his thought to delve into his master studies in robotics and control.
At this stage, the future is quite certain for Joël.
“I think I might also do an internship after my bachelor studies. I'm currently looking at the automotive industry. In the competitions, a lot of big companies, like Tesla or Porsche, also are part of these events, and they're also there to judge our engineering design. So when they are there with us and try to work out while we've taken certain design decisions, that's where I would see myself probably in one or 2 years.”
What Role Does Xmind Play in His Dream?
The talk with Joël convinced us that he has a clear awareness of his target and dream, he knows where to go and what to do at every stage. As an effective tool, Xmind acts as no more than lubricant in the process of making achievements as it boosts his productivity. For example, when the team needs to organize their ideas or plan on the next steps, Xmind helps them conduct an organized and highly efficient meeting, which can be constructive for each member. When a huge amount of information comes, Xmind can help them summarize in the fastest way.
“I would really like to push this that more people get to use it (Xmind). I've heard a lot of people giving me feedback, saying that looks so cool. It’s good to take notes. So I would really recommend it to every student in my class. I think it's the optimal tool to take notes in a structured way.”
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