News Release

Engineering Students and Alumni Speed Through Second Annual Triton Junkyard Derby

 Team Expansion Phantom
          Structural engineering 4th-year Tomas
         Barber (seated) drove the team Expansion
                          Phantom to victory

San Diego, CA, May 17, 2005  -- In an upset victory, a structural engineering student came from behind and edged out the defending champions--a team of mechanical engineering alumni--to win the second annual Triton Junkyard Derby with just two-hundreds of a second to spare.

Adding a new twist to the phrase “crash course,” nearly 1,000 spectators gathered Friday near the straw bale course lining the hill between Peterson Hall and Geisel Library to cheer their favorite boxcar. The event took place during the 23rd annual Sun God Festival and was presented by the UCSD Alumni Association and Triton Engineering Student Council.

The Triton Junkyard Derby is a three-day event based on The Learning Channel's popular “Junkyard Wars." It originated in 2004 under the leadership of mechanical engineer Ben Graham ('04) and Alumni Association student programs manager Tracie Davee. Twelve teams participated in the original Derby. “We sold out in under two days” said Davee. “We had 16 teams comprised of 120 participants, and another four teams were on the waiting list.”

 Tomas Barber
      Tomas Barber talks 
         about his team's
    successful strategy to   
 take home the top prize in  
        this year's Derby.
            Length: 1:42
Jacobs School students and alumni played key roles in the final showdown. Team Bohica was made up of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering alumni who had previously won the 2004 Derby as Team Darkside. In a photo finish, they were edged out in the final seconds by team Expansion Phantom. The winning vehicle was driven by Tomas Barber, Class of '06, a structural engineering major. "We have a great engineering program," said Davee, "and this event gives students a chance to use their knowledge in a very fun way."

Single-elimination races included students, staff and alumni competing in a wide array of contraptions, everything from a mock “Hummer” armed with functioning LED headlights, radio and wheel spinners, to a river kayak and jet ski fitted with bicycle tires. The multi-generational alumni team, Road Rash, used scrap wood to build their boxcar and placed the driver on his back with steering and braking behind his head. Crowds were treated to a special surprise entry this year, courtesy of the UCSD Police Department, who pulled over runaway boxcars. Unfortunately, their siren and flashing light laden boxcar crashed after the second run.

 “This is a fantastic idea,” said Renee Barnett-Terry, dean of Student Affairs for Revelle College. “It’s a positive addition to the Sun God Festival and a great way to get the UCSD community involved in friendly competition.” 

 Junkyard Derby
 Off to the races: Organizers
    say the Junkyard Derby
    has become a tradition.
            Length: 2:17
The winner’s trophy, made from an old “dangerous curves” road sign, will be placed in the Alumni Cove located in the Price Center. In keeping with tradition, the post-race celebration included a dowsing of the teams and spectators in cold sparkling cider.

“The Derby is a great way to reconnect with alumni,” said John Valva, UCSD Alumni Association executive director. “In the past it was a challenge for alumni to return for Sun God, but now they’re working with students, having fun and building a boxcar.”

Competition began with an orientation for participants on the Wednesday evening before the race. Teams were then unleashed in the “UCSD junkyard,” located near the Campus Services Complex, where they scavenged piles of junk, similar to a post-holiday sale in January. They had only two days to build their boxcar. This year, Derby organizers asked the UCSD community to donate junk in support of the Derby. They received many interesting donations, including a couch, swing set, two motorcycles and a lawn mower. By the end of the first night of boxcar building, the junkyard was picked clean, as the teams were able to incorporate most of the items.

 Team Bohica
             Engineering alumni Team Bohica
       entry takes an early lead in the semi-final
When asked about the success of the second Derby, co-founder and Triton Engineering Student Council past-president Ben Graham said, “It was glorious. I’m blown away by the growing interest and excitement.”

The Derby was sponsored by GEICO, UCSD Facilities Management, Auxiliary & Physical Plant Services, Campus Design & Construction, Campus Research Machine Shop, The Guardian, Imprints, and Transportation and Parking Services.

“Our hope is for the Derby to become one of the biggest events on campus,” said Davee. “We want this to become an annual UCSD tradition.”

To learn more about how you can help next year or to add your name to a list of interested race participants, contact Tracie Davee at the UCSD Alumni Association at or 858-822-5054. For a list of Derby winners and losers, visit