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Women in Engineering

Autocross racecars take the starting line at Imagine RIT

Will Hot Wheelz take another checkered flag or will Team Electric Roar power down the track for a win?

The two vehicles will be among the dozen teams racing to answer that question as participants in the Power Wheels and E-Vehicle Autocross Challenge at Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival at 9 a.m. this Saturday morning.

Hot Wheelz, the all-female team of engineering students, part of RIT’s Women in Engineering program, won the e-dragster event in 2012 and will be returning with a strong team and a new car. Electric Roar, built by staff of Information and Technology Services, is one of the original racing teams dating back to the first Imagine festival in 2008, when RIT President Bill Destler proposed the challenge to showcase alternative energy vehicles.

Both are prime examples of campus innovators and friendly competitors.

“One of the exciting benefits of working at a place like RIT is that we are able to participate in events like this that allow us to work outside of our normal day-to-day jobs,” said Matt Campbell, manager, Infrastructure Applications & Datacenter Technical Services, who leads Team Roar with Andy Elble and Mark Kimble, also part of ITS’ technical services department.

Olivia Robertson, co-project manager for Hot Wheelz agreed. “This challenge is more intense than the past years, and it allows us to take the things we’ve learned from the past Imagine RIT challenges and incorporate it into the car we are building currently,” she said.

Cars will line up in Parking Lot G, located in the front of campus, and speed along a tricky course of hairpin turns, cone obstacles and straight-aways in a test of speed and maneuverability. The sole energy source should be from an electric chemical battery. Each vehicle will run the track two times, and the fastest run will be recorded. The winner will be announced at the opening ceremonies of Imagine, starting at 10 a.m. in Simone Circle. First prize is $1,000 or a banjo from President Destler’s collection.

In 2012, the Hot Wheelz team, consisting of female engineering students, won the first E-Dragster race going 100 meters in six seconds, at a top speed of 58 miles per hour. Last year in the hour-long endurance challenge at Imagine, the team placed third overall and won the event’s Innovation Award. This year, Jennifer Smith, a third-year mechanical engineering student and co-project manager for the Hot Wheelz team, will be the driver.

“Our power system is more complex this year,” said Robertson, a fourth-year electrical engineering student. “We’re using several different components including multiple relays and a programmable motor controller. We also will be implementing an Arduino which will allow us to have a speedometer.”

Team Electric Roar has taken a similar approach.

“We are using off-the-shelf components for the primary drive systems combined in unique ways,” said Campbell. “We started with a racing go-kart chassis, added an electric car motor, a golf cart speed controller and a homemade battery pack. We also built a custom data logging computer so that we could record telemetry of our runs and use the data to improve upon our times.”

Team Roar has been a part of the e-vehicle races since the Imagine Festival began. While they did not race in 2013, they coordinated the hour-long endurance race.

Other teams competing in the 2014 challenge include ECO-Police, P2 Turbo, Team Alpha, Electrical Vehicle team, Mighty Morphin Power Wheelers, RIT Players, SMART Car, First Not Last.

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