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Student-made go-karts try to out-race, out-maneuver and out-tug rivals at Georgia Southern University’s Engineering Design Challenge

It’s one thing to race a go-kart; it’s an entirely different endeavor to design, build and race a go-kart but that’s exactly what area high school students will be doing this weekend at Georgia Southern University’s Engineering Design Challenge.

On Saturday, April 28, at 1 p.m., student teams, mentors and fans will gather at the Pirate Athletic Center on the Armstrong Campus of Georgia Southern in Savannah. In last year’s competition, students flexed their inventiveness to create hovercrafts. For the 2018 challenge, teams are tasked with building battery-powered, self-propelled, steerable, one-driver go-karts that will take center stage in a series of heart-pounding competitions.

Sponsored by Gulfstream and the Georgia Space Grant Consortium, this year’s contest will feature five schools from Chatham County (Calvary Day School, Islands High, Savannah Arts Academy, Savannah Christian Preparatory School and Woodville-Tompkins Technical and Career High School). Three schools from Bulloch County (Portal High School, Southeast Bulloch High School and Statesboro High School) will compete for the first time this year. All participating teams will go bumper-to-bumper in three competitions: the incline/sprint race, maneuvering course and tug of war.

In the incline/sprint race, student go-karts must climb an inclined ramp, retrieve a flag 15 meters away, sprint back to the finish line and stop before passing the 10-meter mark or else be penalized. The maneuvering course involves a series of cones laid out with winding twists and turns where the team with the least cones hit and features missed, wins. And finally, the tug-of-war challenge pits two, randomly selected teams against one another as they attempt to tow their rival across the mid-point line in two-minute rounds.

While Saturday’s competition garners the most attention, behind the scenes, students have been hard at work since November designing and fabricating their teams’ go-karts. Along the way, teams were tasked with maintaining an engineering journal to chronicle their experience, which will also be judged as part of each teams’ overall score. The final judging criteria involves students creating a poster and giving a presentation the day of the challenge that summarizes the highs and lows they’ve experienced as well as discoveries made throughout the process.

The engineering design challenge not only tests students’ ingenuity but also their resourcefulness. Each team is given $200 to purchase materials and an electric go-kart power kit provided by the Georgia Southern College of Engineering and Computing. Students have the option, however, to seek sponsorships up to $500 for a total budget of $700. Along the way, project mentors, who consist of college-approved teachers, volunteer engineers and/or students in Georgia Southern’s engineering program, flex their experience to help guide their teams to the best end result.

Beyond the adrenaline rush and cash-prize reward to the winning team, the challenge also fulfills the Next Generation High School Engineering Design Standards set forth by the Georgia Department of Education.

Georgia Southern University, a public Carnegie Doctoral/Research institution founded in 1906, offers 141 degree programs serving more than 27,000 students through nine colleges on three campuses in Statesboro, Savannah, Hinesville and online instruction. A leader in higher education in southeast Georgia, the University provides a diverse student population with expert faculty, world-class scholarship and hands-on learning opportunities. Georgia Southern creates lifelong learners who serve as responsible scholars, leaders and stewards in their communities. Visit




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