Engineering graduate races towards finish line on new sim rig

Man sits in race simulator rig playing a racing video game.

For Wintec mechanical engineering graduate Matthew Petersen, not having thousands of dollars to spend on the race simulator rig (sim rig) of his dreams didn’t mean he couldn’t have one.  It just meant he would have to get a little more creative. 

When choosing something to make for a self-directed project in his Mechanical Engineering Level 3 Pre-Trade course at the Wintec Rotokauri campus this year, keen gamer Matthew immediately knew he wanted to make his very own sim rig.  

“I’m really into gaming and I’ve always wanted to own a sim rig, but they’re extremely expensive” he says.  

“Instead of spending my time making smaller projects, I decided to make one huge project.” 

South-African born Matthew pursued Mechanical Engineering after graduating from Hillcrest High School, Hamilton. He considered university for his engineering studies but decided on Wintec because of the practical nature of the course and for industry experience.  

Matthew, who graduated in June this year, soon realised that a lot of brainstorming, research and planning had to happen before he started building the sim rig.  

“I began by looking at sim rigs available on the commercial market, researching what kinds of products were available, organising material lists and then sourcing these materials from local suppliers.” 

The actual making of the sim rig involved a high level of technical skill and expertise, a challenge that Matthew didn’t shy away from. 

“I spent lots of time on the milling machine and workbench, trying to figure out how to fit each part.” 

“There were a few challenging moments. For instance, I decided to use aluminium for the frame because its light. But it’s not magnetic, so I couldn’t use magnets to hold the metal in place when working on welding parts together.  I was always having to ask someone to hold parts in place for me or propping the parts up against something.” 

“The main feature of the rig is that it can be disassembled to make it easier to travel with, so making those different parts was a big learning curve.” 

Matthew’s tutor Peter Rameka can’t speak highly enough of Matthew’s efforts. 

“Matthew was a really focussed student with a good eye for quality and detail.  This is quite an intense project for Level 3.” 

"What really stands out about the project is not just the execution but the highly detailed 16-page plan.  These projects need to show skill from each of the mechanical engineering disciplines we teach [welding and fabrication; fitting; machining].”  

“Most importantly, we try to build confidence in the student through self-direction. This project was Matthew’s from the beginning to the end. When mistakes happened, and they did, Matthew recognised it and learnt from it.” 

The project is a real testament to the creativity and diversity that a mechanical engineering career can bring, where students are encouraged to bring their own ideas to the trade.  

Nigel Jervis, Trades and Engineering Team Manager, echoes this sentiment. 

“This type of learning is much more engaging for our students and shows how interesting a career in mechanical engineering can be. It’s great to see students engaging in what interests them the most.” 

This is reflected in Matthew’s own words, who has plans beyond building just the one sim rig. 

“I would really like to make one again. I’ve thought about starting my own company with a friend later down the track, making and selling race simulators and other products.” 

“For now, I’m happy finishing my apprenticeship at Industrial Welding. I’ve only got three years to go instead of four, as you jump straight into the second year of apprenticeship after doing the pre-trade degree at Wintec.” 

So, was spending 81 hours over four months on building a sim rig worth it? 

“Definitely. It gets used a lot. My friends often come over and we take turns using it. I’m having a real blast.” 

“Because his project was on such a large scale, there was so much buy-in from all of us here at the school. We all wanted to see him succeed. Some of the skills and techniques involved are beyond level 3, but he learned them because he was such a focussed student.” 

Find out more about studying Mechanical Engineering at Wintec. 

For more information, please contact Wintec Communications Advisor Faith Wilson  

Faith.wilson@wintec.ac.nz or 021 326 293.