Can students clean up at soapbox race?

A group of research students from the Faculty of Engineering and the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre have designed and crafted a soapbox racer to compete in the Scarcliffe Soapbox Derby and raise money for charity.

Students from the Industrial Doctorate Centre (IDC) for Machining Science – a collaboration between the Faculty of Engineering and the University of Sheffield AMRC to provide EngD and PhD training – have spent their free time creating the motor-less, gravity-propelled ‘soapbox’, a name hailing from the early 20th century when people created the makeshift racing vehicles from wooden soap crates.

soapboxThe IDC students will be up against 44 other teams as they race, downhill, through the heart of Scarcliffe village in Derbyshire on Saturday, June 29. They are taking part to raise money for Ashgate Hospice in Chesterfield, which provides care for patients with life-limiting illnesses.

Achieving speeds of up to 40mph on the course, racers in the derby have to overcome tricky obstacles including a chicane and a jump before reaching the finish line – hopefully with their soapboxes intact and a fast time on the clock.

The self-funded IDC team – many of them in the first year of a four-year engineering doctorate programme - consists of Robert Frankland, Jack Secker, Josh Priest, Kieran McMullen, Luke Osmond, Max Champneys, Oscar Seward, Peter Neal and Sebastian Dabrowski.

Team member Robert says they have just one goal for their first outing - pass the finish line with the soapbox, and driver Oscar Seward, in one piece.

“We’ve been collecting parts over the last few months and it’s taken a while to bring it all together,” said Robert.

“We started by getting a go-kart chassis to build it around. The first we got was too small and we had to source another. We then thought that might be too big so we had to make a few modifications to get it right.

“It’s been back and forth to the point where the wheels have been delivered, the frame is on and all that is left to do is decorate it.”

They had planned to use CAD (computer-aided design) to design the racer but work commitments meant they didn’t have time. However, Robert said half the fun has been going back to basics.

“Our soapbox is quite a conventional design really with axels and a frame for the decorations to go on. We want to make it go quite fast, however, we realise that we’re novice builders at this."

To donate, visit Virgin Money Just Giving and search IDC Soapbox Racer