25th maggio 2011
North East university’s spark of success at US Electric Grand Prix
An electric go-kart created by UK engineering students has powered to third place at a prestigious motoring event in the build up to one of America's greatest racing spectacles, the Indianapolis 500.
The kart achieved the podium position after being judged on its design, energy efficiency, community outreach and performance in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's prestigious Electric Vehicle Grand Prix (evGrandPrix) this month.
The evGrandPrix encourages students from across American universities to design, build and race the fastest and most energy-efficient battery-powered kart over 100 laps.
Hayley Blythe, 21, and John Wood, 22, from the University of Sunderland, teamed up with Ryan Colvey, 24, Paul Sleight, 23, and Andrew Cook, 21, from Coventry University, to take part in the evGrandPrix, part of the Indy 500’s 100th anniversary celebration events.
John, from Boldon, and Hayley, from Newcastle, both study in the Faculty of Applied Sciences and work closely with the university's Institute for Automotive & Manufacturing Advanced Practice (AMAP), which has expertise in industrial applications and digital engineering technologies as well as covering international research in automotive, manufacturing and maintenance engineering and ultra low carbon vehicle technology.
Sunderland and Coventry’s joint entry saw the Coventry-engineered chassis come runner-up in the pre-event ‘design’ contest – qualifying the team second on the grid for the race – while the batteries and electric motor, provided by Sunderland, scored highly in the ‘efficiency’ rating. In the final race the team – the first UK team to take part in the US race – secured third place overall.
Dave Baglee, Sunderland project co-ordinator, who joined the students at the race this month, said: "To be invited to one of the most significant motorsport events in the world, watched by millions was a huge honour for both Sunderland and Coventry University.
“I am incredibly proud that we managed to take third place overall. All the students have worked incredibly hard and this was a real team effort.
“We had a great kart and a strong team spirit, but a special mention must go to Ryan Colvey; as team captain he showed commitment and leadership skills which are essential to manage a motor sport team in a dynamic environment.”
Ryan, a postgraduate motorsport engineering student and Coventry’s project co-ordinator, said: “Third position is a fantastic achievement for our team, and it’s a great reward for the effort we put in on the run up to the event. We didn’t get a lot of testing time beforehand. But we were pretty confident we’d come up with a good design and drive train which would be competitive. Coventry and Sunderland worked really well together to achieve this result.”
The evGrandPrix offers students an opportunity to develop and demonstrate their skills, ingenuity and enthusiasm, taking what they have learned in the classroom and putting it into practice.
At the start of the race, driver Paul Sleight swept into the lead of the 30-strong field – comprising universities and colleges from across America – and, despite the limited track-time the team had prior to the event, the squad headed the pack for the opening laps.
With three laps to go, a collision while battling for the top positions bent the kart’s roll cage and forced Paul into an unscheduled pit stop, during which the team made a Herculean effort to fix the damage and get the kart back on track in a mere few seconds.
A storming final two laps saw Paul overtake five rivals, crossing the line to secure third position overall in the event.
Dave Baglee added: "We were invited to the evGrandPrix following a visit to Purdue University in Indiana during a conference with the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders. Purdue has a prestigious reputation for aviation technology and aeronautical engineering programs and recognised the importance of the research we're conducting into electric vehicles at AMAP."
Chris Aylett, CEO of the Motorsport Industry Association (MIA), said: “This is marvellous news, I congratulate the success of these two great universities – working so well together, in a real team effort, against outstanding competition. This unique event will catch the imagination of students everywhere.
“It is perfectly timed, just as the automotive world looks ever more closely at electric solutions to green transport and young engineers need to gain all the knowledge they can. Innovative motorsport competitions, such as this, will accelerate that process.”