Newly graduated engineering twins plan to take music and motorsport worlds by storm

Posted on May 14, 2020

They may be non-identical twins, but when it comes to their biggest passions, Justin and Darren Oates (23) share identical interests in engineering, music and motorsport.

The Oates twins recently graduated as mechanical engineers during the University of Pretoria’s (UP) virtual graduation ceremony, in which 11 000 UP graduates were awarded their qualifications in absentia due to the lockdown necessitated by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The twins – who also play the piano and have recorded music in English under the name Telepathy, but who switched to the Afrikaans market under the name Alter Ego ­– ­had initially applied to study actuarial science, but during a gap year decided to switch academic streams and pursue degrees in mechanical engineering, partly influenced by their father, Cecil, who had studied engineering.

Justin and Darren specialised in motor vehicle engineering, which studies the behavioural characteristics of motor vehicles to predict or enhance specific dynamic or performance effects. “Much of our passion in motor vehicles is centered on performance: acceleration, braking, cornering and ride,” they say.

Justin and Darren Oates have a passion for engineering, motorsport and music. Photo: Dewald Pretorius.

Motorsport is about precision, say the brothers, which suits them down to a tee given their “calculated perfectionist personalities”. “With our passion for motorsport and the physics of vehicle behaviour, we finally decided that engineering is the way to go,” Darren says. “We have always been entrepreneurial and are continuously thinking of new ideas. To our pleasant surprise we learnt that engineering built a solid platform for innovation and getting ideas into the real world.”

They hit the motor racing main circuit in 2015, competing in the VW Polo GTI Cup Series, which is the most competitive level of racing in the country, with Total as their sponsor. The twins continued to compete on the racing circuit while doing their final-year dissertation, which they completed in conjunction with Volkswagen South Africa’s motorsport division.

“We are very competitive, but not when it comes to academia,” says Justin. “As creatives, we don’t like judging a different way of thinking and therefore don’t compete by doing this. When it comes to sports, however, we are very competitive.”

Juggling their studies, motorsport and music was challenging at times and they were unsure that they would graduate together. “Sometimes one of us was less prepared than expected for tests and exams,” says Darren. “Studying for tests and exams while flying across the country and sitting with our work at airports and on airplanes made it difficult. Finishing our degrees together seemed unlikely at times.”

Finding a mentor and study buddy helps one figure out engineering concepts much faster, say the twins. Photo: Dewald Pretorius.

The brothers have some advice for those who would like to study engineering: “The discipline is very broad and will teach you skills in a variety of areas. It is very tough, and we felt like giving up several times just because we did not know whether it was worth pursuing something at this level of intensity for four years.

“Your first two years will feel very theoretical and you will start doubting your passion for engineering. But towards the end of your degree, everything will start making sense and you will appreciate the diverse knowledge you have obtained and how it all fits together.”

They suggest that first-year students become part of a larger group to find a mentor and study buddy as it will help to figure out engineering concepts much faster. “We were fortunate to do it together as brothers,” they say.

The Oates twins completed their degree in the stipulated four years and are still participating in motorsport as well as working on a music album with producer Denholm Harding. “Our passion for motorsport will always run parallel to our engineering knowledge and will open up opportunities in future. We also aspire to share our music with the world. Music and racing are such great platforms.” 

- Author Primarashni Gower

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