EV Challenge 2016 - Spring Race

Cars at the Electric Vehicle Challenge

On a warm morning, May 28, nine car teams and their cheering fans assembled on UW’s East Campus for the 2016 Waterloo Electric Vehicle Challenge. Having written stories about two of the local teams, I was especially keen to see the cars again and check in with the teams from Sir John A Macdonald Secondary School and Jacob Hespeler Secondary (above, Nate piloting their car down the straightaway).

Darin White here doing a little guest blogging again on the Waterloo Electric Vehicle Challenge site. The old saying “They are all winners” absolutely applies to this event and to the teams that fielded the cars on which they’ve worked so hard throughout the school year. These high school car clubs, made possible by committed staff and keen students, offer a wide variety of hands-on learning opportunities: design and engineering, graphic design, electronics, fabrication, CAD, driving, sponsorship, teamwork, club organization, recruiting, and the list goes on. I’ve got a whole lot of photos here to walk you through the event, but if you really want to know more about this: get involved. Start a club at your school. Volunteer to mentor students. Sponsor your local team.

Read more about the Waterloo High School EV Challenge Spring Race...

Student participants at the Electric Vehicle Challenge

I rolled in before 8am with my daughter Arden (left) and my neighbor Leon (right). Along with Melissa here, they’re all SJAM students from Waterloo. There’s the Engineering 5 building in the background.

Teams unloading their trailer

St. Benedict from Cambridge was already on the scene, unloading gear.

Two team members carrying a generator

When you don’t have power on site, you bring your own. It turned out that having a tent was also a very good idea as the temperature climbed to 30C by 9am.

Jamie Cox with his car

I got to meet teacher Jamie Cox from Bluevale, a veteran of this race series and Technical Advisor for the EV Challenge.  I had to ask him about this front-wheel drive car.

Close-up of front-wheel drive car

There’s some pretty involved steering geometry here, including a damper (top centre). When you have a number of solid cars in your shop, it gives you the latitude to experiment a bit.

A student sitting in an electric vehicle

Another Bluevale car.

An electric car

And this rounds out the three cars from Bluevale. One in the 12V category and two in the 24V category.

Bluevale students working on their car

Getting down to work.

SJAM getting setup

I found the team from Sir John A Macdonald getting set up. I heard lots of questions in the pits about the body construction of the SJAM cars. It’s a monocoque made out of wood.

Team members working on their car

As I’ve learned from covering the EVC and talking with teams: tires wear out and that can end your race.

Team changing their vehicle's tires

Sam putting new rubber on the SJAM car.

Team working on their car

Always some pre-race tuning and checks that can be done.

Georgian College students attending the event

First-timers, Georgian College came down from Barrie. They were doing an exhibition run at the event, so while they’re not able to compete for awards, they are hoping to get races going within the colleges.

Bluevale student introduces himself to judge

Bluevale meets the judges.

St Benedict's team undergoing inspection

St Benedict going through pre-race inspection.

Guelph's car with solar panels on top of its body

From Guelph, the GCVI car sporting solar panels. There was a lot of sun on race day, so I’m very curious as to how these worked out to extend battery life.

Banting's car's frame

Banting’s car out of Alliston took home the Toyota Fabrication & Manufacturing Award.

Banting's car

They did a beautiful fab job on this frame. Was that black paint a powder coat? This was a super-clean build. There was some last-minute drilling and cutting on this cowling (left) so that it would clear the steering control rods.

Electric vehicle being judged

I found the rookie team from Jacob Hespeler Secondary School looking very sharp in their Erb Transport gear.

Sponsor gear belonging to a team

Sponsor support is a key element of the EV Challenge. Teams need everything from tents to TIG welding, so jump in to help these high school students where you can.

A team's electric car

The car is looking good. The team worked out the issue with the motor controller faulting. All ready to roll. Love the wheel chock.

A team going through paperwork

Going through the paperwork. The team was very happy to have a working car at the event. It was a serious feat to get to this parking lot in only six months. Hats off to the Electric Warriors. Team member Stephanie told me they had some challenges getting the decals to stick to the paint, but the outcome looked totally pro.

Faux NOS kit on a car

Being myself a fan of the Fast and Furious movies, I had to smile at this faux NOS kit on the JHSS car. Highlights the importance of having fun and a good sense of humour for car club.

Jacob Hespler and Bluevale side-by-side

By sheer luck, these two cars were parked side by side. That’s interesting because the Jacob Hespeler car on the right received its back end from the Bluevale car on the left as a donation as it was being rebuilt. This sort of bootstrapping of new teams is extremely helpful so they don’t have to start with a blank slate. Along with that car part came some helpful advice and troubleshooting.

Georgian College working on their car

I love hanging around the pits and seeing how the different teams approach both design and fabrication. The different approaches to solving the same problems are fascinating. Georgian has some enviable manufacturing capabilities.

Georgian College working on their car

These articulated wheel mounts (lower right) were carved out of a single block of aluminum using electrical discharge machining (EDM), which is sort of like a wire cheese cutter, except you cut metal instead of cheese. The cowling for the car was built on a form created by sandwiching high-density foam into a large block and then carving that down to the final shape by hand. So there’s some artistry in the fabrication.

Hall Effect Sensor on Georgian's car

There was a lot of curiosity from the other teams around the electronics on Georgian’s car. Here a Hall sensor on the drive wheel feeds data to…

Arduino Nano in the motor controller box

This Arduino Nano in the control box. The Arduino runs the motor controller, talks to the driver display in the cockpit, and beams car telemetry out through a radio link. The team told me they’re interested in building their own motor controller for next year.


The 12V batteries that put the ‘E’ in Electric Vehicle Challenge.

Georgian College Team

A quick shot of the team from Georgian College.

A judge inspecting Georgian College's car

A judge from UW going over Georgian’s car.

Judges inspect Jacob Hespler's car

Judges checking that the Jacob Hespeler team can get in, and more important out of their car in 20 seconds. Sounds like a lot of time, but it’s a tight fit. You need to pull the steering wheel off, shoe-horn into the seat, belt on the 5-point harness and have your helmet on.

A judge with Bluevale's car

A judge with the Bluevale team.

SJAM team working on their car

The SJAM cars got a bit banged up during practice driving, only a week before the race. The team rallied and had the cars in picture-perfect shape for race day.

Benedict's car being inspected

St Benedict in the pits.

Teams setup in the pits

Witnessed a very kind tent loan to SJAM. By 10am it was a scorcher.

I can’t help but smile at this location. When I joined BlackBerry in 2002, this was the first building I worked in and my desk was on the first floor right behind that grey tent. These buildings were acquired by the University of Waterloo as BlackBerry consolidated its operation on the east side of town.

Team working on their car

Resurrection Catholic Secondary School fielded cars fabbed almost completely in aluminum. I talked with the team and learned that this car, without batteries and driver, weighs in at less than 100 pounds. That’s about 30% lighter than some of the steel frame cars.

The team was just about to do some chain tensioning with that big lever on the left.

Bluevale's cars lined up

The Bluevale lineup for both 12V and 24V races.

Team making last-minute adjustments to their car

Mr. Johnson and Nate cinching down the battery behind the seat. Safety inspectors had noted that it needed to be tightened up. That’s why it’s always a good idea to bring along your tools and materials.

University of Waterloo trailer

I wanted to get a look around the course before the 12V race kicked off so I wandered out of pit row.

"Ideas start here" tshirt

Passed Paula’s volunteer tent.

Bluevale team helping to setup the course

I found some of the Bluevale crew with Peter Teertstra who heads up the organization of the EV Challenge at UW. There are a ton of logistics that go into putting on the spring race. Lots of work to do the morning of the race.

Hay bales being placed along the track

Hay bales are placed strategically around the course where there’s a risk of hitting a curb.

"Entrance closed" sign on a barricade

Crowd barriers and traffic cones line the race route and two of the three entrances to this part of East Campus are closed with barricades.

Volunteer using a sweeper to clear the track

This volunteer had some heavy work driving the street sweeper to clear the corners.


Under the big tent, I found the trophy and awards banners all ready for the afternoon wrap-up.

Programs that had been placed on one of the tables

I couldn’t stay in the shade for long as there was so much to cover before the race kicked off.

Scoring team preparing the system

HQ in the Scoring tent.

Radios set on their charging station

The course is large and winds through multiple parking lots. The course safety staff stay connected via radio and are also equipped with air horns and flags.

Volunteers next to a UW Community flag

UW community, indeed. Like many good things in the community, this one runs on a lot of volunteer effort. High five to the volunteers.

Jamie Cox leading teams around the track

I got back to the pits just in time to catch Jamie leading a walk-through of the course for drivers.

Drivers going underneath the start/finish line

Starting at the starting line.

Jamie Cox talking to teams

There were lots of words of experience. Cautions on road hazards like uneven pavement and grates that can lead to a blown tire. Jamie also noted safe places for passing slower cars.

Teams returning to the pits

Returning to the pits.

Waterloo Engineering banner

The drivers were sent to ready their cars on the starting line.

Resurrection working on their car

The pace in the pits was moving even faster as the start time approached. Resurrection working on batteries here.

Jacob Hespler's car with a duct-tape chain guard

Jacob Hespeler had jury-rigged a chain guard out of duct tape and coroplast that completely enclosed the chain per the safety rules. Nice work.

Stephen Lewis Secondary School working on their car

Stephen Lewis Secondary School, from Mississauga, fielded a beautiful car. Really clean build. They took second in the 12V race and third in the 24V race with the same car. Switching the car over to 24V involves adding an extra battery and in some cases swapping a motor controller in the pits.

Spare tires sitting in a box

Critical to have spare parts on hand. And all these spare wheels and tires are one of the many places sponsor dollars go.

A team's toolkit


Electronic transponder on a car

Each car is outfitted with one of these transponders which flash a unique signal that is captured under the gantry at the start/finish line. This facilitates automatic recording of lap times.

Banting adjusting their steering system

Banting doing some steering tweaks…

Banting placing their vehicle's shell on their car

Before putting the shell on their car.

Stephen Lewis' chain guard

Looked like Stephen Lewis needed to extend their chain guard, too.

A student holds a camera

I chatted with this crew capturing event video. I’m very curious to see what they got. They had some seriously cool gear.

Student strapped into his vehicle

Raj getting ready to roll.

Students showing CAD drawings to a judge

Sam showed the judges some of the SJAM CAD drawings of their car. I learned that there is a whole design evaluation side to the EV Challenge beyond the performance of the cars.

SJAM students crowded around a judging session

Smiles all around as these proud SJAM students field questions about their cars.

Team placing batteries in their car

Weight distribution is a big consideration for car design. In Resurrection’s car, the batteries are mounted down behind the seat for a lower centre of gravity and improved stability in the corners. Also considered is the front to back distribution of weight, including driver position. This all affects the handling and efficiency of the car. It also impacts tire wear. The most common way of assessing overall weight and distribution seemed to be placing a common bathroom scale under each of the three tires.

Resurrection's car

While teams need to consider weight, they also need to allocate limited budget to various items on the car. The aluminum frame, skin and these pedals in Resurrection’s car weigh less but cost more in material than steel construction.

People crowd around the team's tents

By 10am, family members filled the pit area to support the teams and cheer them on.

Peter Teertstra, race organizer, talks to teams

Shortly before the race, all the teams gathered for a welcome from Dr. Peter Teertstra (left) who runs the event on behalf of Waterloo Engineering. Pete wears a couple of other hats as well: teaching in the Faculty of Engineering and running the Sedra Student Design Centre in E5. Busy!

Students crowd around to hear opening remarks

So great to see all these makers come together.

Jacob Hespler at the start line

Jacob Hespeler at queuing up at the starting line.

A team member examines the car's transponder

Double-checking the transponder on the hood of the car.

Student is strapped into their car

All hands on deck to buckle Nat in the car.

Team before the race


Student strapped into his car

Further up the line, Mr. Henderson check Jeff’s harness in the SJAM car.

Student in the SJAM car

Jeff, in the driver’s seat, is in Grade 10.  His older brother Sam is a Grade 12 4-year veteran of car club.

Cars lined up to race

All the 12V cars lined up and ready to go. Note the wiring on that gantry over the starting line. Those are the optical receivers for the car-mounted transponders.

Jacob Hespler's team poses for the camera

Going down the line, I’ve gotta get another shot of the Jacob Hespeler. All heart.

SJAM's car and driver

Jeff is ready to rock this car for SJAM.

Stephen Lewis Secondary School at the start line

Stephen Lewis Secondary School looking strong on the starting line.

Bluevale's car

Bluevale is ready to go.

Guelph Collegiate's car rolls into position

GCVI rolling into the lineup.

Georgian's car and driver

Georgian is all set.

Benedict's car ready to go

Thumbs up from St Benedict.

Resurrection's car at the start line

Resurrection. Made it!

Two-minute warning for Banting

Two-minute warning from the Banting team.

All the cars lined up and ready to go

Course safety staff sounding off now. Ready to race.

The pace car leads the way off the start/finish line

The pace car leads for the first lap.

Jacob Hespler's car

Bluevale's car

SJAM's car

Stephen Lewis' car

Georgian College's car

St Benedict's car

Resurrection's car

Banting's car

Cars racing

Cars racing

Cars racing

Cars racing

Jacob Hespler's car

Cars racing

Cars being rolled back into place

There were a few red flags in the early part of the race. If a car breaks down on the track, the air horns are sounded and red flags stop all drivers where they are.  If the driver didn’t stop quickly enough, volunteer crews would roll them back to their horn position. One thing about these cars: no reverse.

Track worker shows red and black flag to driver

The black flag is a warning to the driver. You get that for aggressive driving, unsafe passing, and so on. In this photo, Resurrection is under a red flag halt for a stopped car on the course.

Jacob Hespler in the pits

Jacob Hespeler coming out of the pits after a driver change. Nate jumped out and Chantel jumped in. You need to change drivers at least once during the race. Some teams elect to do more driver changes to share the experience, despite the time penalty. SJAM put Jeff, Arden, Melissa and Leon in the driver’s seat for the 12V race.

Resurrection leaves the pits

The Resurrection team watches carefully as their car leaves the pit area. A track marshal makes sure collisions don’t happen at the track entrance. He also shouts an important question to the driver and the team pushing the car: “POWER ON?”

Peter interviewed for the EV Challenge

Pete about to be interviewed.

SJAM's car

Arden in car #703 for SJAM.

St Benedict's car

Stephen Lewis' car

Banting's car

Guelph's car

Spectators line the bleachers and railing

In the bleachers and at the rail.

Team undergoes a driver change

Pitting for a quick driver change.

Pushing a car out of the pits

Coming out of the pits.

SJAM pushes their car into the pits

Sam and Arden give Melissa a push into the pits.

SJAM pushes their car out of the pits

Leon at the wheel.

Peter Teertstra being interviewed

On camera.

Cars racing

The race flies by quickly.

Head marshal waves the checkered flag

One more lap after the checkered flag.

Cars in the pits after the 12 V race

The finish of the 12V race.

Team photo of Stephen Lewis

A team shot with sponsor Jim Pinder (right) from Erb Transport.

SJAM team changing out a battery

No rest for the SJAM team as they switched their 12V car over to 24V.

Students carry two fresh 12 V batteries to their car

And that requires two fresh batteries.

Georgian College preparing for the race

Georgian College pitted for a quick change over to 24V.

24 V cars lined up

All the 24-volt cars.

Scoring team finalizing results

Volunteers still hard at work in the afternoon.

Edge of University of Waterloo tent

Water water water!

Jamie being interviewed

Jamie ready for the camera.

Jamie being interviewed

Two SJAM cars side-by-side

Seeing double. Teams must enter at least one 12-volt car. They can enter up to three cars overall. Both of these SJAM cars running 24-volt.

CTV interviewing Peter Teertstra

CTV was on the scene.

Ross McKenzie

Ross McKenzie, the voice of the EV Challenge, is also the Managing Director for the Waterloo Centre for Automotive Research (WatCAR).

Paula Petrie

Paula Petrie is the Administrative Assistant for the Sedra Student Design Centre and also coordinates details of the race including finances.

Car races

Students talk to Peter Teertstra

Peter chatting with the students from Jacob Hespeler.

Spectators watching the race

The clouds held off until the 24-volt race completed.

Awards tent

We all took shelter from the rain in the awards tent.

Team accepting participation award

All the teams got a plaque for participate. Here’s Raj accepting the plaque from Ross on behalf of Jacob Hespeler.

Team accepting participation plaque

Sam accepted the plaque for SJAM.

Bluevale accepts Engineering Design Award

Bluevale took home the Dennis Weishar Engineering Design Award.

Banting accepts Toyota Fabrication & Manufacturing Award

Banting was awarded the Toyota Fabrication and Manufacturing Award.

Stephen Lewis accepts the Interstate Batteries Rookie Team Award

The Interstate Batteries Rookie Team Award went to Stephen Lewis Secondary School.

Resurrection accepts 3rd place in the 12 V race

12-volt third place went to Resurrection.

Stephen Lewis accepts 2nd place in the 12 V race

12-volt second place went to Stephen Lewis Secondary School.

Bluevale accepts 1st place in the 12 V race

Bluevale took first place in the 12-volt race.

Stephen Lewis accepts 3rd place in 24 V race

In the 24-volt race, third place went to Stephen Lewis Secondary School.

Resurrection accepts 2nd place in 24 V race

24-volt second place went to Resurrection.

Bluevale accepts 24 V TADA Cup

Bluevale took home the trophy with a first place win in the 24-volt race.

I’m sure all the teams will enjoy a bit of rest after working so hard on these cars. As with all makers, I’m sure there are already a few ideas floating around about how to improve a car or even design a whole new one.

Congratulations to the teams. You are all winners.