Friday in Kansas

Happy Friday! It was a brutally early start for John, Mike, and Mickey. They got up at 4 AM to get us an early spot in the governor inspection line with Briggs and Stratton. The rest of the team arrived with doughnuts several hours later… after the sun had come up. We rolled right through the first inspection, and Ben, who got here late last night, was there to check out our brakes before we went to the next one.

We fixed up a few weak spots on the car, and headed to the garage for our design presentation. We had a powerpoint documenting some of the analysis and design processes we used to build Knuckles; the judges seemed interested. Then we split up – four team members each with a judge grilling them about one area of the car or another. Last year we stumbled to explain that we hadn’t actually built the car ourselves*; this year, we pulled out pages of calculations and graphs to explain the logic behind our car. I think it went swimmingly.

This afternoon was a little less glorious. We rolled up to the garage a second time to complete our technical inspection around 3. This inspection may prove to be the most stressful part of my year. Just as it was last year. The judges measure every dimension of the frame, check every edge, nut and bolt, and zip tie for compliance with the rules. With some whirlwind calculations from Mike, and a little jostling from John, we made it through with only a few minor changes to make to the car. We spent the rest of the afternoon at the truck, all hands on deck flying, to get the changes made. Unfortunately, the inspections closed before our number was called again, so we’ll be first (11th) in line tomorrow!!

Overall, it was a beautiful hot day, and we made lots of friends with our neighboring teams. Senior Will Worden’s parents came down from Iowa to see us today as well as Mr. Taseff, our Chief Engineer John’s dad, who flew in from California. Mr. Taseff treated us to an avocado-filled dinner at Chili’s which all the kids greatly enjoyed.

Right now, I’m typing this in a camp chair in a field that sounds like the inside of a generator, smells like grass, and is littered with trucks, trailers, and sleepy engineers trying to finish their necessary alterations before Tech inspections open at 8 AM tomorrow. We hope to pass Tech early, get through the brake test, and jet on to the dynamic events!


*Spot, the car we raced last year, was mostly built by older Baja students who left the team before it was race worthy. We finished the car and brought it to comp, but without an understanding for the design process, and certainly without any documentation of it. We scored 20/200 points in the design presentation last year.

First day at comp

Pack up!! On Tuesday night we were up in the auto bay packing and finishing up Knuckles until midnight. We got him all prim and proper with shiny new carbon panels, numbers, and a pretty indestructible CVT guard. Hopefully the judges agree. Then we took knuckles for a little joy ride and packed him into the trailer. The solar car team lent us their 20 ft trailer which was already outfitted with tool chests and shelves, a huge step up from our tiny trailer. We borrowed their lights and generator which allowed us to bring the welder, drill press, grinders, and a bunch of other tools which last year we had to borrow from other teams. This year is a whole new game. We know what SAE is up to and we’re prepared with tools and a car that will hopefully pass tech inspection with ease.

We all arrived in Pittsburg last night between the hours of 12 and 2 AM. The drive took us over 14 hours – there might be worm holes between Chicago and Kansas. Drivers be warned. After a healthy four hours of sleep, we got back into the truck and drove to the Kansas Technology Center.  We arrived at 8 AM, but it seems most people got there way before that. The first 30 cars were already lined up for the Briggs and Stratton governor test, which means we have to wait until tomorrow to start tech. We got a great pit assignment – number 40.  We’re right on the edge of the parking lot next to a tree where we plan to hang up our hammock tomorrow.

The newly christened Solar trailer parked at our pit location

The newly christened Solar trailer parked at our pit location

Our biggest tasks today were getting the team registered, picking up all 25 of our free t-shirts, and getting through the business presentation – 50 points. The business presentation was a new event, and some of the freshmen really took charge of working out a powerpoint slide show and all of the best selling points on the car. They killed the presentation and handled the judges' questions without any problems. We’ll see how the scores come out, but I think we’re all winners here.

The afternoon was spend sleeping and playing cards before a monstrously delicious BBQ dinner. Tomorrow holds the design presentation – 200 pts – and a lot of standing in lines waiting to get through tech. Hopefully there won’t be thunder storms.