Our need for speed often clouds our memory of simpler times. But can anything replace the satisfaction of a well-executed engineering project, whether it’s a race to the moon or a humble road-race of unpowered vehicles?
Our Veracity team in Utah recently competed in a local race termed the Soap Dish Derby (a variation of the trademarked Soapbox Derby). Veracity staff and their families shared responsibilities for the project, outlined in eight engineering Build Tasks:
Build Task 1: Unpack car kit and gather needed materials and tools.
Build Task 2: Prepare the car base.
Build Task 3: Attach hardware, steering and braking system, axles and wheels.
Build Task 4: Align steering and rear axle.
Build Task 5: Test steering and braking.
Build Task 6: Have the shell professionally finished and design stickers for shell.
Build Task 7: Attach shell to car base.
Build Task 8: Perform final development testing.
Appropriately for engineers, they numbered their vehicle π.
“Project Manager” Ian Harding commented that the hardest part of the effort was defining requirements and keeping things moving, which is in line with most engineering projects. The actual work was not troublesome by comparison.
“System Architect” Michael Webb acknowledged that the vehicle, being kit-based, did not require design work. Instead, the team focused on “excellence in craftwork” in building it. In addition to painstaking attention to detail, the team also assessed potential drivers’ weights for achieving maximum speed. The calculations are classified, but they forecasted a winning team.
On race day, Veracity took 1st, 3rd, and 4th places in the adult-level competition.
The Soap Dish Derby highlighted the fun and value of getting together after work to collaborate on a project. Michael Webb summed up the experience this way: “Many people, kids included, got to apply varnish, fasten hardware, and test mechanisms. It was rewarding to see the car come together, and exciting to see how it looked after it was painted and the logos attached. It was awesome to see us win the first heat comfortably, and then confirmed with another win in the slower lane. We knew then we had a fast car and a great team.”