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June 14, 2011

Camosun's Mechanical Engineering Technology students are adding the finishing touches to their top secret, custom-built soapbox racer and will be gunning for gold when the race ramp drops Saturday, June 18 at the sixth annual Canary Derby on Markham Road, north of Interurban campus.

"We are determined to build the lightest, fastest, sleekest, slickest cart to out-perform our competitors on race day," says Imtehaze Heerah, faculty advisor for the Canary Derby project. "For three of the past four years our students have stood on the podium in third place, next to full-time professional engineers from rival teams— Schneider Electric and Carmanah Technologies Corporation. This year, we plan to be on the podium again, but in the top spot," says Heerah.

Heerah says, "Each year we start with a blank slate. We discuss our goals, and draw out our concepts on napkins and scrap paper. We use computer modelling to create 3-D images, and then we make our templates, cut out the components and assemble the final product. All of this happens within just 11 weeks, and is in addition to the students' extremely heavy course load."

First-year student Nathaniel Green says it's impossible to estimate the number of hours that goes into this type of design/build project. "It's a lot of work, and project management is the biggest challenge. But when you spend a lot of time studying math and physics like we do, being part of a team and doing hands-on work is a lot of fun. In fact, it's the reason most of us choose to come to Camosun."

As in most things in life, what goes around comes around. This year's team chose to acknowledge a generous cash donation from the SPIN Centre at PISE by calling themselves "The SPINners." Following suit, the SPINners and the Mechanical Engineering Technology department donated last year's third-place soapbox model, The Shark, to a team of enthusiastic high school students from the Saanichton Individual Learning Centre (ILC). Not only that, Camosun's South Island Partnership office chipped in $500 to cover the ILC team's entry fee, thanks to funding received from the Year of Science initiative. The "ILC Radicals" are really pumped and are already saying they want to build their own soapbox cart next year.

Spectators can look forward to being blown away by this year's model that will be beauty in motion, integrating technical elements for strength and speed, structural integrity and artistry that's inherent to good design, and a surprise paint job to be revealed on race day. In addition to being swift, the soapbox must withstand a running push start, multiple speed bumps and a final heart-pounding 45° curve.

Capping off Camosun's participation is the cheerleading contingent that plans to rally the crowds and turn this family fun event into a memorable day for all.

The sixth annual Canary Derby connects the technology and business communities of Victoria with the Canary Foundation of Canada and the BC Cancer Foundation to support early detection cancer research. There is one simple fact about cancer that is often overlooked: most cancers can be cured using today's treatments if tumours are detected at an early stage, before they start to spread throughout the body. Camosun has been a proud participant since 2006.


Imtehaze Heerah
Tel: 250–370–4508
Cell: 250–588–6578

Last updated: June 14, 2011 4:08 pm

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