Maths, Engineering, Physics, Design & Technology
Davìd was a Performance Engineer in the Analysis and Simulation Team for Land Rover BAR on its challenge for the 35th America's Cup. Originally from Belgium, David was responsible for managing all the data that comes in from the boats, which helps him develop algorithms and visualise the results to feedback to designers and sailors.
Briefly describe a typical day for you at the Land Rover BAR base.
I start the day with the morning sailing briefing, where the weather and testing plan of the day is discussed. I then set up Mission Control, a F1-like pitwall where live data and video is shown to follow the sailing day and do analysis on-the-fly. This also gives time to improve some of our tools or continue a longer sailing study that spans multiple days. We continuously process all data coming from the boat and at the end of the day I'll run all kinds of different algorithms to provide initial feedback on manoeuvres and tests. The sailing day ends with a sailing briefing where sailors and designers can feedback on the events of the day and raise new issues or questions. This will lead to some more ad-hoc analysis points to look into for the next day.
Do you think apprenticeships are a good way to get into the STEM industry?
Yes, apprenticeships give you a great idea of what the workplace actually looks like (compared to what you think it looks like) and gives you real world experience on how to get things done.
Why do you think studying STEM subjects at school is important?
STEM subjects are all about teaching you how to think. I think it is of vital importance to learn what logic looks like and how everything in this world can be deduced from fundamental principles, which is especially cool when you are explaining what happens around you all the time.
If you could do another job in STEM, what would it be?
I would like to do more mathematics-based development of trading algorithms.
Briefly describe what you thought of STEM subjects in school, and whether your opinion has changed now?
Maths and technology-based subjects came very naturally and easy to me, and I really enjoyed the logical structure behind them. Other subjects were very up and down in how excited I was for them - I needed to see how they linked to the big picture.
What degree(s) did you study to end up in a role like yours?
BSC Mechanical Engineering and MSc Ship hydrodynamics & aerodynamics.
What has been the highlight of your role so far?
Developing the algorithms to automatically detect and analyse take-off on the foils. This was something that was deemed revolutionary in sailing.
What would be your advice for young people interested in pursuing a career in STEM?
You should work hard on the fundamentals - everything else (specific applications of the industry) derives from there. Also statistics is a lot more important in life than you first think, well beyond STEM subjects.
Name a STEM topic or skill which you learnt at school that you still use in your current role, and how you apply it.
Standard deviation - to quantify the variance of the data. It's very important to draw conclusions from the right data in the ever-changing sailing conditions.
And for bonus points, what's your best STEM joke?
An engineer is working at his desk in his office. His cigarette falls off the desk into the wastebasket, causing the papers within to burst into flames. The engineer looks around, sees a fire extinguisher, grabs it, puts out the flames, and goes back to work. A physicist is working at his desk in another office and the same thing happens. He looks at the fire, looks at the fire extinguisher, and thinks "Fire requires fuel plus oxygen plus heat. The fire extinguisher will remove both the oxygen and the heat in the wastebasket. Ergo, no fire." He grabs the extinguisher, puts out the flames, and goes back to work. A mathematician is working at his desk in another office and the same thing happens. He looks at the fire, looks at the fire extinguisher, and thinks for a minute, says "Ah! A solution exists!" and goes back to work.