From the IBDP to engineering undergrad and off to the races with Formula 1 – Kyle Harrison shares his story.
“My love for Formula 1 has always been there, I grew up watching and going to the races with my dad, and as I understood more of the engineering side, my passion for the sport grew as well. I discovered Aerodynamics in my first year in the Formula 1 student team at UBC. I originally applied to be a part of the engine sub-team, but was placed into the aerodynamics sub-team instead.”Kyle Harrison – Class of 2013
After ten years at Bangkok Patana School culminating with the completion of the IBDP, Kyle Harrison matriculated at the University of British Columbia (UBC) to study Integrated Engineering. There he got involved with the UBC Formula racing team, continuing a passion that had grown as he progressed through his teenage years. Shortly after completing his undergrad degree, Kyle detoured through Bangkok where he opened the popular Korean restaurant Sul with fellow alumni. He returned to the path of racing after a year, moving to the UK to earn his Master’s in Aerospace Dynamics and Aerodynamics.
“Right after university I returned to Bangkok to start Sul; starting businesses with my friends has always been one goal of mine, and it came with challenges as running any business does. I decided to go back and pursue my engineering career because I didn’t feel fulfilled in the technical aspects of my education and interests. It has always been a goal of mine to be an engineer in Formula 1; this is the top of motorsport engineering and it combines my passion for sports and engineering,” said Kyle.
“My friends/business partners were very supportive of my decision to further my studies and pursue my ‘dream job’ and I’m very grateful to them for understanding my decision. I transitioned into a more passive role within Sul and kept up to date through monthly board meetings. The return to school was actually effortless. I had full confidence, I could rely on my friends to continue running the business. I thought my engineering would be very rusty since I had not used it for over a year. However, the MSc Aerospace Dynamics course at Cranfield [University] had some crossover with work I had done as an aerodynamicist (*Did you know this was really a job!) at UBC’s Formula student team so I felt ready.”
“As a wind tunnel engineer, I have a very hands-on approach to aerodynamics and aerodynamic testing. My work day is very dynamic and changes every day. The job is split into two parts, the first is the running of the wind tunnel itself. This includes the responsibility to make sure all the sensors on the model are operating as they should, testing different sensors as part changes occur and troubleshooting the sensors if they come up with an error. The second side to the job, which is even more exciting to me, is the research and development aspect where we test new technologies that have the potential for better data collection. This allows us to have better correlation between track testing and computational fluid dynamics (CFD), with, we hope, the end is better car performance. Finally, on a more Formula 1 fan side of things, what’s really awesome about working at Williams is that we will have the Thai driver Alex Albon, and I had the opportunity to see him in the wind tunnel on my second day at work!”
“The interactions I had with the various teachers and coaches at Bangkok Patana gave me a good foundation on how I approach learning. I benefited the most from the various activities I could participate in which translated to ‘real world’ skills. Model United Nations (MUN) allowed me to become a better speaker, while all the sports I participated in made me a better leader and team player, while Jazz band gave me my love for the saxophone, so much so that I still play to this day. So, the ability to partake in all these activities moulded myself into a well-rounded individual.”
“My IB experience was very difficult as I had to take the dreaded higher Maths, Chemistry and Physics. However, these subjects helped with my transition into university Engineering subjects. Looking back, I believe the reason I am where I am today is because of my Extended Essay project, I designed and built an open-circuit closed test section wind tunnel (but knowing what I know about wind tunnels now, I can safely say my results back then were horrible!). This project is the reason why UBC’s Formula student team placed me in the aerodynamics sub-team which led to my discovery into what is now my passion, aerodynamics.”
“I would encourage everyone to immerse themselves in various activities outside their studies. What gave me a great university life was a balance between engineering, social and sport clubs. I know very well how focused everyone is with their IB scores as I was in that very place before. It is not where you start on your journey to your dream career, it’s the incremental points you gain over time that matter (just like F1!). Trust me, I didn’t get the best scores for IB, however as I progressed through my undergraduate degree and masters, I discovered what study method worked for me. Alongside that, the experiences I gained throughout added up and landed me in the position I am in today. If anyone is interested in following a similar career path to mine, feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn and I’ll be more than happy to discuss!”