You're an engineering student looking to break into the private spaceflight industry at SpaceX. But the boss (Elon Musk) will only consider the top one percent of the human population for employment. According to one ex-recruiter, you can increase your odds by building racecars.
Sorry, your garage-built Miata doesn't count.
According to Dolly Singh, former head of talent acquisition at SpaceX, answering a student's question on Quora, the hail-mary pass into SpaceX may involve joining a Formula SAE team and developing a prototype, open-wheel racing machine.
If you weren't aware, FSAE is the annual competition in which college car nerds become hot prospects to fill automakers' engineering slots. Collegiate FSAE teams design and build racecars over the course of a year, then come together at an event in Michigan (among other FSAE events globally) to compete against other schools from around the world.
Automakers have, for years, actively recruited FSAE team members. A number (if not most) high-ranking engineers at GM, Ford and Chrysler (and others) are FSAE vets, and a good many Jalopnik commenters (and our esteemed Editor-in-Chief) have been through the program (speak up, you guys).
The Quora questioner asked if the lack of an elite education would kill his dream of working for SpaceX. While Singh said the challenges "should not be underestimated," the company does recruit from FSAE:
One exposure/ access point for SpaceX that is outside of the top schools is the FSAE competition in Michigan each year. FSAE draws teams from many different schools, and the teams basically design and build a race car from scratch.
It's an amazing event; and SpaceX uses the event to pick up some of the best gearheads in the country. More than anything else, mechanical engineers are recruited from this event for the structures design team.
The focus is usually on vehicle chief engineers from winning teams, as they tend to be the best engineer on each team- but we have found talented people in a variety of roles within the teams.
If your school has an FSAE team - join it; if it doesn't, try to start one.
So yes, if you're a state-school engineering hotshot looking for a space career, you know what you need to do. Study up on Newton's laws and then go out and race, dammit. RACE FOR SPACE!