Going up against top universities and grad students from one of the most prestigious art schools in the nation was no easy feat for the students from PCC’s Design Technology Pathways program, but despite the odds, several students managed to win awards at the 10th annual Formula E competition hosted by the Art Center.
The Formula E competition (“E” for elastic) started in the 1980s and originally only included Art Center students. In recent years, however, the competition has expanded to include students from other colleges, including teams from Beijing.
The goal of the annual competition is for students to create an innovative rubber-band powered car and have it race on one of the several courses at the Art Center’s Pasadena campus.
“We encourage students’ constant experimentation through design and testing, understanding failure in system designs and generating new solutions,” said Art Center adjunct faculty member Stan Kong.
Among this year’s contestants were several teams from PCC.
“We gave them a lot of autonomy to just create,” said design tech advisor Rohan Desai.
Desai was impressed with the students who signed up to participate in the competition, many of whom had just completed their first year of college.
In spite of being willing to compete at Formula E, students had to raise money for material costs.
“I know that [Engineering and Technology instructor] Sandy contributed a bit of money and one of the students who won, Ricardo, he was really smart and did one of those Go Fund Me accounts,” said Desai.
Students also dedicated long hours in lab working on their prototype.
“The first part of designing the RC [radio controlled] car was to decide how you will like to propel the car,” said Ricardo Mendoza, one of the winners at Formula E.
Students had to figure out how to steer and control the power for their car. They also had to take into account suspension, weight reduction and weight displacement.
According to Mendoza, the final prototype had to be fast, maneuverable, lightweight, and durable in order to compete against formidable opponents with a much larger budget.
On the day of the competition, the four teams finally had the chance to show off their hard work.
“I was excited to be there amongst other schools, but I did have butterflies in my stomach,” said Mendoza. “I was only a little intimidated by one team, which was called Leadfinger.”
Despite being nervous, Mendoza, who along with his partner Christian Robles made up Team RCTK, was able to win the Disney Imagineering Moonshot Award and the Mattel Hot Wheels Powerhouse Award. Team RCTK also placed first in the Sculpture Garden Flats Race, which came with a $1,000 check.
“It had to be the powertrain and suspension,” said Mendoza when commenting on the two unique components that allowed his car to win.
Atria Azarmi, a PCC student, also did well. Azarmi chose not to compete with a PCC team and instead teamed up with two Art Center Industrial Design graduates, Zach Schlossberg and Zach Buchman, under the name the team name Leadfinger. They went on to win five races.
Desai wasn’t surprised that PCC students did well. He credits their success to hard work, a good community and good mentorship.
“I think students feel empowered here to really try to create something that’s theirs,” said Desai.