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UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering

Fun at the 2012 Junkyard Derby

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Tipsy, the boxcar of the Theta Tau team, won this year's Junkyard Derby
For more Junkyard Derby race pictures, view our Facebook album here
Click here for build day pictures.
Picture courtesy of TESC/Sam Sun

 San Diego, Calif., May 17 -- One the morning of May 14, the tracks were set, the teams were excited and the crowds were pouring in as UC San Diego’s own version of Junkyard Wars was heading towards its culmination. The ‘Junkyard Derby,’ organized by the Triton Engineering Student Council (TESC), pitted 28 teams, in their home-made boxcars, against one another.

Most teams consist of engineering students, but anyone is welcome to try out—non-engineering majors, faculty, staff and alumni, said Eduardo Mateo, a third-year nanoengineer student, who was in charge of the event and has been a member of TESC for two years. “Junkyard Derby is one of the biggest events that TESC organizes,” he said. “It not only helps foster communication among various engineering majors but also gets the engineering school noticed among the general crowd.”

The event includes two build days, when teams get to pick materials from a huge pile of junk and get their vehicle together, and the final race day. Races are held on Peterson Hill, with two vehicles competing against one another at a time. The faster boxcar moves on to the next round. It’s not only a test of speed and agility, but also a test of endurance.

“The actual race is a very small portion of the derby,” said James McCloskey, a fifth-year engineering management and cognitive science student, who led the Simulcast Racers team. “We spent 75 percent of the time thinking about various aspects— initial design, machining, ground clearance, etc.” Although the Simulcast Racers lost their race, the team said the process had been a lot of fun.

This year’s derby winner was the Theta Tau team, represented by Frank Buchanan, Best Tech, Eddy Kim, Johnny Tran, Jimmy Rho and Tommy Hyung Jin O.

In true TESC tradition, the event provided free food for everyone. Mateo confessed that this was in fact what first brought him to a TESC event, where he learned about the derby and aimed to someday be in charge of it. He was delighted with the response that the derby has received. He was also as proud of the fact that they had absolutely no left-over food.

Finally, a little inside scoop: the next derby might be split into Beginner Class and Pro Class, where beginners have to race downhill and Pros have to race uphill using some gravity drive mechanism. Something to think about for future participants.

This year, the event was sponsored by Yahoo!, L3, Wicked Lasers, CouponCodes4u.com, Muir College Council, Associated Students UC San Diego, the Campus Machine Research Shop, UCSD Transportation Services, UC San Diego Facilities Management and Triton Community and Tournament Competition Funds. 

This story was written by Abhinav Jha, a student writer on the communications team at the Jacobs School

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Media Contacts

Ioana Patringenaru
Jacobs School of Engineering
Phone: 858-822-0899
ipatrin@ucsd.edu