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Junkyard Derby Goes on, Rain or Shine

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Boxcars braved the rain to race down Peterson Hill in this year's Junkyard Derby.
Photos: TESC/Sam Sun
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San Diego, Calif., May 10 -- The big storm system that drenched most of San Diego County this week didn't stop 46 teams from taking part in this year's Junkyard Derby May 6 on Peterson Hill. On Monday, 46 teams of students readied themselves for what would be the culmination of a week’s worth of preparation for this year’s derby, organized by UCSD’s Triton Student Engineering Council.  This year’s winner was team Premium Motion.  

Rainy weather did little to suppress the excitement as crowds of onlookers chattered amongst themselves and shouted words of encouragement to fellow students and participants.  Bales of hay lined each side of Peterson Hill along the length of the track, the smell of grilled hot dogs and hamburgers wafted down Library Walk and teams of students gathered in a frenzy making last-minute adjustments to their boxcar creations. 

Comprised of both engineering and non-engineering students, teams had about two days to construct their vehicle.  According to Lynne Swerhone, a 5th-year Engineering student, all teams participated in a “Junk Run” early in the week where students were able to select recycled materials to be turned into an operational vehicle. 

“Only one person at a time is able to select items for their car,” said Swerhone.  “Most teams will immediately try to get their hands on a bike.”  

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A student welding a piece of his boxcar. Most vehicles are built in about 24 hours.

The vehicles are typically constructed within 24 hours, though some participants such as 3rd-year Engineering student Merlin Huang assembled their boxcar in just three hours.  Built to look like a bus, Huang used steel scrap as well as bike tires and lights to create his vehicle, which he called the “UCSD Shuttle”. 

The process began with 46 teams who rummaged through recycled junk in order to create and personalize their own boxcar.  All teams were then required to subject their vehicle to a brake and steering test.  Those who were able to successfully build a functioning vehicle and pass their brake test  moved on to the next round of competition.  Over 20 teams advanced to participate in the timed trials on Monday’s race day and the top 16 teams with the fastest times advanced to the next round.  The team with the fastest time during the timed trials was the Peevish Penguin Punishers at 12.5 seconds. 

Swerhone, along with 5th-year Engineering students John Rauch and John Condello, advanced to the top 16.  They called themselves Team Live Badass and constructed their vehicle from a 50-gallon drum that formerly held acetone, an old speaker stand and spring that served as the steering wheel, a metal moving cart handle, foam from a Tempur-Pedic mattress and old bike tires and brakes. 

Racing opposite Team Live Badass was a boxcar adorned with a giant Coors Light energy drink cooler created by Team Car Ramrod and called “Silver Bullet”.  Nick Roberts said that he and team members Patrick Wilson, Evan Betzler, Sheldon Simon and Alex Neskovic, all 3rd-year students, spent one day building the vehicle and a second day painting it. 

The event was sponsored by Associated Students, UCSD Transportation Services, UCSD Facilities Management, University of California Police, Birch Aquarium, Triton Community & Tournament Competition Funds, Sprinkles Cupcakes, Student Council of ERC, UCSD Library, Campus Research Machine Shop, Red Bull, Espresso Roma Café, Muir College Council, CaliPrints, UCSD Recreation and the Jacob School of Engineering. 

Story written by UC San Diego student Coral Lin.

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Students show off their wares after going on a Junk Run to build their vehicles.

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

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