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A Race to the Finish

Students in two sections (a day and an evening) of a Mechanical Engineering Technology (MET) course recently competed in a race of electric go-karts that they designed and built by hand.

The course, which is the capstone before graduation, challenges MET students to solve a technical problem; this year’s problem was to design and build an electric go-kart capable of going up a six degree incline and fit the average U.S. male from 13-45 years of age. They also needed to maximize speed. The students designed and built the electric go-kart from the ground up. To celebrate the culmination of the project, the two classes decided to race their go-karts to see which one was faster.

“During the design phase, not knowing what the other team’s design was like motivated us to work a little harder to try to outdo each other,” said Richard “Toby” Bennett, who is the team leader for the day group. 

The course instructor who oversaw the team leaders from each class was Stephen Culling.  “These students have incorporated knowledge they learned throughout the entire MET program, and applied it to solve this problem. They had an extremely challenging timeline and they rose to the challenge with ingenuity, enthusiasm and pride,” Culling said.

To broaden the scope of the project, each go-kart had to incorporate a solar panel into their design. Both groups collaborated with the Energy and Electrical Engineering Technology departments at the Stanton campus. Dr. Cory Budischak, an Energy instructor, gave the students information pertaining to incorporating a solar cell into their design. Another instructor, Henry Foley, of the Electrical group, was a valuable resource for the electrical aspects of their design.  Foley’s students from ELC 215 - Introduction to PLCs helped with wiring the karts.

“Having the students from the MET program work together with students from the Electrical program was a good experience for them,” Culling said. “They learned that people from different disciplines have to get together early and frequently in order to achieve a goal together. No group in a project works in isolation.”

In the end, the day class won bragging rights with a mile time of 4 minutes 32 seconds. The evening class came in close behind with a time of 4 minutes 51 seconds. In comparison, the commercial electric vehicle from the automotive department had a time of 2 minutes 32 seconds. 

The final part of the MET course will occur when the students present their designs to the College and industry professionals on Thursday, May 9. They will explain how they came up with their designs, how they proved theoretically that they would work, and then explain their findings from the tests they performed.  “Working within such a tight time frame and as part of a group where individuals all have different ideas, strengths and weaknesses, you find out that things don’t always go as planned, and sometimes theory does not exactly match reality. You then have to work as a group to overcome those complications, much as I expect you would when doing design work in industry.” said Bennett. 

Interested members of the community should contact Rich Mulski at rmulski@dtcc.edu for more information about the presentation on May 9.