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.
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.
St. Benedict from Cambridge was already on the scene, unloading gear.
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.
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.
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.
Another Bluevale car.
And this rounds out the three cars from Bluevale. One in the 12V category and two in the 24V category.
Getting down to work.
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.
As I’ve learned from covering the EVC and talking with teams: tires wear out and that can end your race.
Sam putting new rubber on the SJAM car.
Always some pre-race tuning and checks that can be done.
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 meets the judges.
St Benedict going through pre-race inspection.
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 out of Alliston took home the Toyota Fabrication & Manufacturing Award.
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.
I found the rookie team from Jacob Hespeler Secondary School looking very sharp in their Erb Transport gear.
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.
The car is looking good. The team worked out the issue with the motor controller faulting. All ready to roll. Love the wheel chock.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
A quick shot of the team from Georgian College.
A judge from UW going over Georgian’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 the Bluevale team.
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.
St Benedict 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.
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.
The Bluevale lineup for both 12V and 24V races.
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.
I wanted to get a look around the course before the 12V race kicked off so I wandered out of pit row.
Passed Paula’s volunteer tent.
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 are placed strategically around the course where there’s a risk of hitting a curb.
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.
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.
I couldn’t stay in the shade for long as there was so much to cover before the race kicked off.
HQ in the Scoring tent.
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.
UW community, indeed. Like many good things in the community, this one runs on a lot of volunteer effort. High five to the volunteers.
I got back to the pits just in time to catch Jamie leading a walk-through of the course for drivers.
Starting at the starting line.
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.
Returning to the pits.
The drivers were sent to ready their cars on the starting line.
The pace in the pits was moving even faster as the start time approached. Resurrection working on batteries here.
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, 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.
Critical to have spare parts on hand. And all these spare wheels and tires are one of the many places sponsor dollars go.
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 doing some steering tweaks…
Before putting the shell on their car.
Looked like Stephen Lewis needed to extend their chain guard, too.
I chatted with this crew capturing event video. I’m very curious to see what they got. They had some seriously cool gear.
Raj getting ready to roll.
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.
Smiles all around as these proud SJAM students field questions about their cars.
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.
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.
By 10am, family members filled the pit area to support the teams and cheer them on.
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!
So great to see all these makers come together.
Jacob Hespeler at queuing up at the starting line.
Double-checking the transponder on the hood of the car.
All hands on deck to buckle Nat in the car.
Further up the line, Mr. Henderson check Jeff’s harness 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.
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.
Going down the line, I’ve gotta get another shot of the Jacob Hespeler. All heart.
Jeff is ready to rock this car for SJAM.
Stephen Lewis Secondary School looking strong on the starting line.
Bluevale is ready to go.
GCVI rolling into the lineup.
Georgian is all set.
Thumbs up from St Benedict.
Resurrection. Made it!
Two-minute warning from the Banting team.
Course safety staff sounding off now. Ready to race.
The pace car leads for the first lap.
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.
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 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.
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?”
Pete about to be interviewed.
Arden in car #703 for SJAM.
In the bleachers and at the rail.
Pitting for a quick driver change.
Coming out of the pits.
Sam and Arden give Melissa a push into the pits.
Leon at the wheel.
The race flies by quickly.
One more lap after the checkered flag.
The finish of the 12V race.
A team shot with sponsor Jim Pinder (right) from Erb Transport.
No rest for the SJAM team as they switched their 12V car over to 24V.
And that requires two fresh batteries.
Georgian College pitted for a quick change over to 24V.
All the 24-volt cars.
Volunteers still hard at work in the afternoon.
Water water water!
Jamie ready for the camera.
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 was on the scene.
Ross McKenzie, the voice of the EV Challenge, is also the Managing Director for the Waterloo Centre for Automotive Research (WatCAR).
Paula Petrie is the Administrative Assistant for the Sedra Student Design Centre and also coordinates details of the race including finances.
Peter chatting with the students from Jacob Hespeler.
The clouds held off until the 24-volt race completed.
We all took shelter from the rain in the awards tent.
All the teams got a plaque for participate. Here’s Raj accepting the plaque from Ross on behalf of Jacob Hespeler.
Sam accepted the plaque for SJAM.
Bluevale took home the Dennis Weishar Engineering Design Award.
Banting was awarded the Toyota Fabrication and Manufacturing Award.
The Interstate Batteries Rookie Team Award went to Stephen Lewis Secondary School.
12-volt third place went to Resurrection.
12-volt second place went to Stephen Lewis Secondary School.
Bluevale took first place in the 12-volt race.
In the 24-volt race, third place went to Stephen Lewis Secondary School.
24-volt second place went to Resurrection.
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.