A victory for SpaRRCky: Student-built battery-electric car crosses the finish line

RRC Shell Eco-marathon 2018After two and a half years of hard work, a team of Mechanical Engineering Technology students have landed Red River College on the Shell Eco-marathon’s leaderboard for the first time.

The team placed 14th in the battery-electric category at the Sonoma, California event, where they were one of only 55 teams (out of the 100 teams competing) who passed inspection and made successful runs on the track.

“I feel very proud of the team. It’s been a huge commitment and it was amazing to watch SpaRRCky (the College’s battery-electric vehicle) every time it lapped around us on the track,” says Bin Yang, who was the RRC team’s manager until he graduated last December.

Behind the wheel of the car was RRC Automotive Technician student Daren Nuevo, whose teammates described her as “fearless” in the driver’s seat.

Daren Nuevo, 2018“I was more eager to drive the car than I was nervous, and once I was on the road it was more exciting than I imagined,” Nuevo says about the experience. “Time after time the team worked extremely hard, fast and efficiently to meet the inspection requirements, and throughout all the hiccups that came about.”

Those hiccups — including a broken motor, a blown fuse and a loose wheel — were seen by the team as opportunities to make quick repairs on the fly. Using the skills they learned while designing and building SpaRRCky at the College, they were able to stay calm and work together in the moment.

“A lot of the teams end up working together to help each other out,” says Yang, who now works at RRC as a research assistant. “We lent out tools and nuts and bolts to a few teams and were lucky to borrow a few things from other teams. Especially the team from Universidad de La Sabana (in Colombia) who were able to lend us a spare motor.”

To get on the leaderboard, the team had to complete seven laps in under 26 minutes.

“Daren was just flying by,” says Yang. “After we made the fixes we just wanted to make sure we completed a successful run and then worry about strategy later, so she was lapping every car.”

Over the next year, the team will recruit new members to continue testing and making improvements to the vehicle. Their goal is to return to the competition in 2019 with a new strategy that will allow the car to go further using less energy.

“We made it work, and now we can make it better,” says Yang.

The Shell Eco-marathon finds students teams — from high schools, colleges and universities across North and South America — designing, building and racing cars that aim to go the furthest distance while using the least amount of energy.

The RRC team’s success would not have been possible without the generous support from their sponsors: CARIC (Consortium for Aerospace Research and Innovation in Canada), CTTAM (Certified Technicians and Technologists Association of Manitoba), NSERC (National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) via the Vehicle Technology Centre, Custom Castings, MPG Sports and Red River College.

You can continue to follow their progress over the coming year on Facebook.

(Photo credit: Ari Robinson)