Small cars, big technology: RIT racecars take top placements at Freescale Cup Challenge

RIT’s Team Freesnail and Rhode Islands’ Rhody Racers head to championship in Seoul, Korea




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Michelle Cometa

Even though the racecars were small, the internal technology of embedded systems and sensors was big. Fourteen college race teams competed this past weekend in the Freescale Cup East Coast Challenge at RIT.

Team Freesnail held the lead for most of the competition until the Rhody Racers zipped around the track to take the lead and never looked back. But both teams, part of the recent Freescale Cup East Coast Challenge at Rochester Institute of Technology on April 19, will represent the U.S. at the Freescale Cup Championships in Seoul, Korea, in late August.

Both racecar teams were among the 14 collegiate teams competing. The event is an annual student-design competition where college students build autonomous model-size vehicles and race them over a course for the best times. The technology used is similar to the sophisticated electronic sensors, embedded software and processors being incorporated into today’s vehicles, or “smart cars.”

“It’s more about the coding than the car designs,” said Lydia Hays, a second-year computer engineering student at RIT and part of the T-800 racecar team. Each team begins with a similar kit of parts that includes the car chassis, processors and sensors, then programs its racecar and controls it as it moves along the racetrack.

This was the first year RIT hosted the Freescale Cup. Four colleges participated: RIT, the University of Rhode Island, Pennsylvania State University and Carlton University (Canada). RIT race teams Freesnail, Dream Team and Unbendable Bananas placed second, third and fourth, respectively, overall in the competition. Freesnail student-competitors are Brent Dimmig and Benjamin Kranes, both fourth-year computer engineering students.

“We do this race all over the world,” said Andy Mastronardi, global director, university programs, Freescale, “and we usually see about 45 to 60 percent of teams complete the track circuit. But we see 100 percent learning from the students. It’s a tremendous learning experience—and good fun.”

The international championship takes place Aug. 29–30 at Hanyang University in Seoul, Korea.

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Michelle Cometa

Even though the racecars were small, the internal technology of embedded systems and sensors was big. Fourteen college race teams competed this past weekend in the Freescale Cup East Coast Challenge at RIT.