We enjoy building stuff, it’s in the blood ya know, at least when it comes to software, so when the idea of the Portishead Soapbox 2019 challenge was put forward, during our all hands meeting, it was immediately obvious, based on the child like energy filling the room, that we should enter the competition.
We entered two teams, and sponsored the event, knowing the money raised would race toward worthy charities, plus its a fun thing to do.
For the those not in the know, a soapbox race is down hill race, riding a gravity powered go-cart, no motors allowed, whilst navigating a series of jumps, slaloms, and water obstacles, where the quickest wins, with additional points for showmanship, design, and so on. You can reach 30+ miles per hour, fly over jumps, and as we found, bend serious steel when crashing, so it is not for faint of heart. Brakes are critical as we found.
The teams formed. It is interesting to see, that as the dust settles, to watch the initial enthusiasm fade, to leave only those determined to take forward the challenge. In the end they were rewarded by over 14,000 people cheering them on, rev’ed up to win, and helped raise a lot of money for charity - £20,122.00 at the time.
It is great to see all the new skills those teams learnt, about chassis, wheel design, steering, use of materials (begging and borrowing I mean), physics, and practical skills like welding, but not yourself (you know who you are!), all held together with a design that is practical on the day, such as adjustable steering for when it gets bent ie axis angle, length, and rake, just to keep one in the race.
You may notice by the pictures, bike parts were used, with angled lengths of steel, bike wheels, which turned out very quickly to be too fragile, and welded on chairs donated by a wedding !
Pictured below, both teams are ready at the top of the very long steep hill, preparing to push their kart as hard as they can, just like cool runnings on tarmac.
On the day it became evident neither team had put enough thought into brake system design. Both used bicycle callipers, either two wheels, or four, for the heavier designed. Before being allowed to race, they inspect your brakes, gloves, helmet, construction, etc. Also, at the top of the hill, rolling brake tests are conducted, and your not allowed to race if you do not pass the test. Lets just say we got pulled aside to make adjustments and received knowing “only just made the grade” looks. Our drivers shrugged off the danger, as only true pioneers do, knowing that losing a wheel (literally) was the greater risk !
Thirty-nine teams entered the race that day, we achieved 42.20 seconds and a very competitive 32.92, with the winner taking 29.26. Unfortunately one of our teams crashed badly, though we walked away with only hurt pride thankfully, and the crowd cheered on as we did the walk of shame carrying our soapbox entry over the line !
It was a great family day, lots of fun stuff to do, and some crazy soapbox entries to watch crash. We give our thanks to the organisers, all the friendly competition, the crowd who cheered us forward, and finally we are very pleased the event raised over £20,000 for charity. Watch more about the event at https://www.portisheadsoapbox.co.uk/.
PS - You may wonder why the page title says data-flash-net, it turned out the broadcast speaker could not say our name properly - but we liked it - so next year we are going as data-flash-net :)