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All-Nighters with “XX,” Our Tribute to a Beloved Mascot

Our team is entering the stage of competition where sleep becomes no longer  an option.  This year, Louisiana Tech is bringing four cars to Eco-marathon (the most we have ever attempted).  We are bringing back Roadster and HotRod, both of which have set national records in the gasoline and diesel categories, respectively.  (See related post: “Hard Work Pays Off at Eco-marathon“) In addition to both of these legendary cars, we are bringing back Thunderdawg.  Thunderdawg had a disappointing setback when mechanical failures caused the driver to roll the vehicle during a run last year.  It has received an overhaul of its steering system in order to make sure last year’s mistake does not happen again.

Along with these three older cars, we have built a new urban concept to compete in the gasoline category. This car is the primary focus of our work.  The old cars only require moderate updating of obsolete systems and inefficient parts.  The new car requires us to completely start from scratch.

Early in the school year, the team started designing the new car that we wanted.  We collectively brought together images of concept cars that we liked parts of.  From there, we used the design software SolidWorks to model the complete car, including the internal components to measure fit.  A large focus of our design this year is to make a car that looks like it could actually be driving down the road.  Many cars, even though they compete in the urban category, do not look “normal.”

We began construction by creating the three-dimensional car out of Styrofoam.  To do this, we use a large 3-axis foam router.  Once the Styrofoam has been cut out, we apply carbon fiber to the car.  This process creates a monocoque design.  Monocoque is a modern design style in which there is no traditional frame in the vehicle.  The “skin” of the car acts as the frame.  This makes the vehicle considerably lighter and easier to construct.

Meanwhile, the internal components of the car are fabricated one by one.  Probably 90 percent of our car is handmade in-house.  This year, we have taken measures to replace steel or aluminum parts with carbon fiber to lighten the vehicle and add a bit more style to the interior.  After that, all that remains to be done for the internal components is the engine installation, electrical system, and miscellaneous extras such as windshield wipers and other safety features.

Once those components are complete, the car will be painted in house by a team member with skill in bodywork/painting.  The color scheme has been decided on, but we are still working on the design.

One of the largest improvements of our car this year is extensive engine testing and tuning.  One of our team leaders, Jeremy, has gained considerable knowledge of engine systems and tuning.  He has made a home in our Dyno-Lab the past few weeks in order to tune the engines to perfection.

Today, we are releasing the official name of our new car.  In early August of 2012, Louisiana Tech’s mascot, Tech XX, passed away.  In memory of the loss of this beloved bulldog, the car will be named “XX”.