David Cullimore always wanted to be an engineer, but without the Greenpower racing scheme he may never have got there.

There are countless schemes in the education system that are designed to encourage students to become engineers. In fact, such STEM schemes proliferate to such an extent that, however well-intentioned they may be, they can start to trip over each other – particularly when other programmes aimed at sport, music, drama, languages etc come into the mix. When vying for the attentions of both students and educators, it’s a competitive world.

What has helped Greenpower become established is the backing of Siemens, a company that is involved in so many engineering disciplines and, importantly for Greenpower, one that has its own design software. It also invests in the region of €20m a year in its educational activities. It is of course not pure altruism – Siemens needs fresh engineers as much as any other engineering company.

Mike Brown is director of academic programmes for Siemens PLM. “Industry 4.0 is just an idea,” he said. “it will really hit in 10, 15, 20 years and the engineers who will make Industry 4.0 happen are in the classroom now. That is a very compelling story. If you talk to teachers and say the reason why Siemens are involved, it is we have to be, because by the time those kids graduate we want them to be able to take full advantage of Industry 4.0.”

Brown continued: “What was industry standard in the 20th century is not going to be industry standard in the 21st century, and this Industry 4.0 is going to require a whole new mind set and whole new technologies.”

Siemens Solid Edge allows competitors to quickly design and iterate car concepts

And it is not just about attracting engineers. In an interconnected and automated future, there is also the necessity for greater understanding throughout society. “We want to increase technological literacy at all levels of education within the student body,” said Brown.

Which is where Greenpower comes in. The Greenpower Education Trust’s objective is to advance education in the subjects of sustainable engineering and technology to young people. To achieve this, it started a challenge to design, build and race electric cars and since its inception in 1999 this has expanded to cover over 500 schools and 8000 students in the UK with further participation internationally.

One of these students was David Cullimore. Cullimore has just retired from Greenpower at the ripe old age of 23, having won the championship several times and every race in the 2016 season. Cullimore’s exploits led to a placement at Red Bull and postgraduate employment as a design engineer at Prodrive, working on a project to develop a rally car from the latest Aston Martin.

It is no surprise that Cullimore’s fledgling career has followed such a path. “As I was growing up, I always liked making things,” he said. “I was always building projects. It seemed natural that I was going to become a design engineer. However, the UK school and university system is particularly tailored towards academic high flyers, of which I wasn’t one. I failed to gain the maths and physics entry requirements to study engineering at a UK university.”

Instead Cullimore studied industrial design at Loughborough University which provided the circuitous route to the engineering career he desired. Greenpower played an important role in this, helping him secure his university place.

“My Greenpower journey started at school when I was 17,” said Cullimore. “I was part of a team who designed, built and raced the car, but at the end of the year I still felt that there was more for me to learn in Greenpower. So in 2012 I set up Cullimore Racing as an independent team. By independent I mean that I wouldn't be associated with a school, college or corporate team and that I would design and build a car and race with the help of my friends and family.”

His first car, Jet, designed using rough 2D sketches went on to win 24 out of its 30 races. Cullimore commented: “I used my Greenpower experience, the knowledge that I’d gained, the practical skills, but also the initiative that I’d shown through setting up my own team, to secure a 12-month placement at Red Bull Formula 1 team. Two years ago I failed to get on an engineering course - I couldn't believe that I was working at the highest level of motor sport.”

Part of Siemens sponsorship of Greenpower includes provision of free Solid Edge CAD for the teams. Cullimore explained how this aided progress: “After my placement I wanted to take my Greenpower racing to the next level, so I decided to build Jet 2. The aim of Jet 2 was to design a car entirely within Solid Edge and to build it to the highest level. Much of the design is similar to my previous car with the benefit of having a 3D assembly as I was able to reduce the tolerances to improve the packaging, to reduce the frontal area and ultimately reduce the drag. Much of the components were designed in Solid Edge including the overall surfaces. Safety testing allowed for an iterative design process and after many different iterations the design was significantly more efficient than my previous car.”

Again Cullimore had phenomenal success, winning the senior championship. He believes part of this success has come from approaching engineering problems from a creative side rather than a traditional engineering methodology. But more than anything he is clear that Greenpower has been instrumental in turning him into the engineer he wanted to be.

He concludes with a message to all companies or engineers who could support or mentor a Greenpower team. “I urge you to get involved in Greenpower. It has provided me with the perfect platform for my future development, and there are many other students like me that would benefit from the Greenpower education programme.”

Behind Greenpower is a collection of heavyweight sponsors including The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), Ford, Silverline, Unipro and Siemens.


Greenpower 2017 season

  • The official 2017 race season starts with the season opening race, which for 2017 is May 3rd; teams should register their interest with Greenpower by this date.
  • Teams will already be designing/building their cars in accordance with the 2017 Rules & Regulations.
  • Teams can continue to develop their car throughout the season as long as it complies with the rules and regulations.
  • The 2017 Greenpower International Finals will take place at Rockingham Motor Speedway on October 7th and 8th.
  • Engineers/mentors can get involved at any stage. If they want to encourage a school to take part in the Greenpower Challenge then now would be a good time to start talking to the school. Many schools new to Greenpower will start by purchasing a kit car. This will enable the school to get up and running quickly and able to compete in the 2017 season.
  • If a University wants to start Greenpower they should be designing and building a car from scratch and if they want to compete in the 2017 season they’ll need to get started ASAP.
  • There is an Ambassador Pack which contains suggestions for engineers/mentors/volunteers on how they can engage with a school. Contact laura@greenpower.co.uk for more information.