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Sometimes it’s all about the cars Campus life, Students

Sometimes it’s all about the cars

I tried to explain that to my co-worker Marie Lang, editorial assistant extraordinaire, as she was proofing my article about Jonathan Peyton, a graduate engineering student, who has worked with an RIT research team on a next-generation blood pump. In the story, he shared that he enjoyed the work, loved the technology challenges and thinks that the work being done will make a major contribution to heart health.

But on the swing side, he’s also quite fond of cars and has been a long-time member of the RIT Baja racecar team. After graduation, he’s going to see about joining a racing team in California. Marie couldn’t fathom why Jon—who has it all engineering-wise—would choose Baja car racing over blood pump development.

The RIT Baja team opened it 2011 season in Alabama, taking eighth place overall. It’ll continue in Kansas (May) and Illinois (June) and unveil a new car May 7 at the Imagine RIT festival. Photo by A. Sue Weisler

I could only answer—it’s a car thing.

I have been covering the different cars and car teams at RIT (Baja, Formula, electric and fuel cars, etc.) for two years now. I tried to explain that you just have to experience it, watch the teams in action, spend some time in the machine shops in engineering, CIMS or CAST and you’ll see gears smoothed, parts designed, test runs happening and quite a few intense, but smiling faces.

Our competitive race teams open their respective seasons this spring and I still am awed by the skill and dedication of the student-designers.

As the electric and fuel cell cars travel around campus, people stop, stare, check out and ask to drive the vehicles of tomorrow.

I think I’m humbled too…having had a brother who rebuilt my Chevy Spectrum engine after I threw a rod (yep, that smoking car on the expressway was me…). I realize some of us just turn the key and start the engine. But others, they can actually BUILD the engine.

So RIT’s students build cars, race them and work to make them even better, stronger, faster, not just for racing, but for us everyday folks who just want to make it safely down 390.

The RIT Formula team opens its season in Michigan (May), as one of the top teams in the world. It heads to Germany in August.

It’s great to see that the work is fun and, not-for-nothing, the workers are quite good at what they do.

Not to worry Marie, the heart-pump project will be just as much a success… sometimes a heart just needs the rev of an engine.

NOTE: All RIT’s race teams will unveil new cars at the upcoming Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival….just listen for the engines!

  1. Pete
    Apr 28

    As the world is going through change, it would be awesome to see RIT join the numerous other universities in the Solar Challenge. The Solar Challenge is a competition to design, build, and drive solar-powered cars in a cross-country time/distance rally event. The Formula Sun Grand Prix is a track event that is held on grand prix or road style closed courses. As the students and faculty at RIT love their racing teams and their clean energy, it seems like a perfect fit.

  2. Marie Lang
    Apr 28

    I swooped into your office, my arms in the air: "Michelle, what is this kid DOING?!" But I think I get it now. Amazing how so many students here have so many talents — they aren't satisfied with just one skill set. And Pete, I think you're on to something! Our people could crank out an awesome solar car in no time!

  3. Michelle
    Apr 28

    Pete, I've heard some buzz about the solar gig and I'll keep my ears open as to who might take this on...sounds great though! Marie, thanks for the inspiration!

  4. Pete
    Apr 28

    I agree Marie. I was fortunate to spend some time at the University of Missouri-Rolla. Their racing team, national champions many times over, was their version of our RIT Tigers Hockey program. It was a unique experience and the buzz around the technology and environmental efforts were awesome. Perhaps President Destler would also enjoy having a solar racing team here at RIT.

  5. Mike Saffran
    Apr 29

    Hopefully our good friend Kathy Lindsley can jump in with some ‘institutional memory’—but RIT at one time did sponsor a car in a collegiate solar-car competition. I think it was in the ’90s when Kathy was covering the engineering college and engineering-tech programs (and just before I started, and assumed those “beats,” in late ’99). I believe the solar-car team might have given way to the mini-Baja team.

  6. Kathy Lindsley
    May 01

    RIT’s solar car effort came before I arrived at RIT, but by all accounts it was a huge success. The University Magazine published a very brief reminiscence in the “From the Archives” section of the fall 2005 issue. Here’s a link: http://www.rit.edu/news/umag/fall2005/056_Archives.html

  7. Pete
    May 01

    Kathy, that was exciting to see the RIT solar car. I was able to remember the UMR (University of Missouri Rolla) solar car. I created a billboard design that was along Interstate 44 (I think, It's been a few years) that celebrated a winning year. I'm not much of a car guy but I enjoy auto racing of all kinds. I'm excited they are here at RIT... BRING BACK THE SOLAR CAR! It'll be my new campaign for RIT.

  8. Michelle
    May 02

    Thanks for the update Kathy! Couldn't imagine our RIT folks not wading into the solar car arena! And Pete, I think there will be quite a few fans for your campaign!

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