Tightly Wound on Massive Rubber Bands, Model Race Cars Hurtle Down Track at ArtCenter’s International Formula E Competition

Students from ArtCenter, Pasadena City College, and China take part in the International rubber-band powered race car competition. Students from China in team Attraction show case their rubber band powered race car. ArtCenters team SHIFT Scott Allred, Wayne Wang, Duvit Kakunegoda and Andre Stephens, showcase their rubber band car. The Formula e Rubber Band Race takes place in the Sculpture Garden at ArtCenter College of Design.Mike Heiss from ArtCenters DINGBATS showcases his design of ingenuity using a 16 foot rubber bands for its power source.A formula e Rubber Band car takes is controlled by 16 feet of rubber band and controlled by 2 remotes. The International Rubber Band powered race car competition.Students from Pasadena and China take part in the International rubber-band powered race car competition. Students from Pasadena City College from team DYNAMO are interviewed by a judge about their ingenuity design.The Formula e Rubber Band Race.

Photography by JAMES CARBONE

5:31 am | August 13, 2018


Students from the ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena City College, and China raced their rubber band-powered model cars last Thursday, August 9, as part of an annual international rubber-band powered race car competition called Formula E Challenge – E for “elastic” – also known as “The Rubber Race.”

The rubber bands aren’t ordinary ones.

During the competition, teams take a 16-foot rubber band, stretch it taut, twist it and stuff it into a carbon tube or another container, and attach wheels and style the machine into sleek foot-long race cars. Teams are composed of two to four members each, with a designated driver or pilot for one heat in each contest.

According to competition rules, teams are allowed to use no more than two remote radio-controlled battery-powered servos in their car design, with each servo capable of one degree or axis of 3D motion in two directions, for steering and braking the vehicle. No other on- or off-board sensors, guidance control or other systems are allowed. Teams have to assemble their own components, and exclusive prototype components are not allowed.

When the rubber band is released, cars surge for about 25 seconds down a track up to a finish line, or crash before finishing the race.

The event has been held annually since 2006 during the month of August by the ArtCenter’s Graduate Industrial Design Department (GradID), on the smooth pavement of the college’s Hillside Campus Sculpture Garden.

The Formula E Challenge is the culmination of a 14-week-long design project with student teams competing in a variety of events with their uniquely designed remote-controlled race vehicles propelled by energy stored in the extra-long rubber bands.

This year, 20 teams from ArtCenter, Pasadena City College, universities in China, and Honda competed in the Formula E Challenge 2018, which gave out $5,000 in total prizes, with half donated to their selected charities.

Teams included Dingbats, Hard to Beat, Team Skykat, and Trash Panda from ArtCenter: Dynamo, RaceMe and Centurion from Pasadena City College; VTech and E:Twin from Honda; and Attraction, Shadow and Striker from two universities in China.

An ArtCenter announcement weeks before the competition said the annual Formula-E race ritual provides corporate and student teams with valuable experience in product development, engineering, team building and fabrication while pushing their ability to find solutions under pressure, recover from failure and ultimately win the big race.

“This is a classic example of people doing something difficult together as a team that’s also a bonding and fun experience,” Andy Ogden, who jumpstarted Formula-E in 2005 as ArtCenter’s GradID chair, said at last year’s competition.

Thursday’s races included a 135-foot drag race, a 322-foot figure-8 flat course, and a 228-foot Sinclair Hill Climb.

Awards are also given out for a beauty contest, and, for the team that wins the most other events, a Best in Show award.

Since 2011, the competing teams have been challenged to find a charitable local organization and to use their creativity to generate donations for the charity through their race activity. In the process, students learn about competition, working in teams, setting goals, making plans and then implementing them whatever the surprises and adversity could be.

Teams from China started competing in 2013 when the ArtCenter and the Beijing University of Technology created Formula E China. Shantou University in Guangdong successfully hosted the 4th Formula E China event in 2016.

In the past six years, over 30 universities and over 100 teams have participated in the Formula E event.

When Chinese teams started joining the Formula E Challenge, the competition started taking on an international touch and currently welcomes schools – and even companies – from all across the globe to enter.