Designing, engineering and, racing a winning RC car.

 

"Leadfinger" is a rubber band powered race car designed as part of an international competition to engineer and race a rubber band powered race car around a series of courses at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA.

The results? Team Leadfinger stole the show and won the competition overall taking Best In Show, the Eckles Design Award, Axial Racing Award, Honda R&D's Dare to Dream award and Drag Race Alley Champions.

 
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The car is powered by 16' of "rubber band" material wound manually inside a carbon fiber tube. At full capacity, Leadfinger is capable of reaching speeds in excess of 45 miles per hour.

Rubber bands are loaded into the power tube by disconnected the driveshaft portion from the body of the car. Components are keyed and register automatically without additional fasteners.

Rubber bands are loaded into the power tube by disconnected the driveshaft portion from the body of the car. Components are keyed and register automatically without additional fasteners.

The only parameters placed on contestants are that the car may contain only two servos- one used for steering, and the other a clutch or brake. 

Leadfinger was built of aluminum, titanium, FDM 3D printed plastics, carbon fiber and a litany of scavenged RC toy parts.

A 90° bevel gearbox was created from a model helicopter tail rotor. Transferring power from a longitudinal driveshaft to a perpendicular rear wheels allowed us to focus on a rigid body with less power loss than a transverse powered car.

A 90° bevel gearbox was created from a model helicopter tail rotor. Transferring power from a longitudinal driveshaft to a perpendicular rear wheels allowed us to focus on a rigid body with less power loss than a transverse powered car.

A "slipper clutch" was made from a large format RC car disc braking system. The clutch allowed rubber band power to be feathered in degrees, not just on and off, adding to control and power conservation.

A "slipper clutch" was made from a large format RC car disc braking system. The clutch allowed rubber band power to be feathered in degrees, not just on and off, adding to control and power conservation.

The clutch is controlled by a large front mounted servo, placed accordingly for weight balance near the front wheels. 

The clutch is controlled by a large front mounted servo, placed accordingly for weight balance near the front wheels. 

Independent suspension was designed not just for bumps but primarily to compensate for the force of a fully wound rubber band bearing down on one side. With added suspension, the car could hold more force and keep all four wheels on the ground.

Independent suspension was designed not just for bumps but primarily to compensate for the force of a fully wound rubber band bearing down on one side. With added suspension, the car could hold more force and keep all four wheels on the ground.

In addition to building a car, we designed a branding strategy for the team.

We created a Bond style poster using photography with digital hand painted overlays and classic 60's layout tropes.

We created a Bond style poster using photography with digital hand painted overlays and classic 60's layout tropes.

The classic James Bond film, Goldfinger served as inspiration.

The team assembled at our race booth with our wares.

The team assembled at our race booth with our wares.

Receiving our awards at the end of race day!

Receiving our awards at the end of race day!

We designed custom playing cards with "Bond Villains" from the opposing teams, manufactured clutch shaped drink coasters, Leadfinger cocktail shakers and served lemon water in mini martini glasses. 

We designed custom playing cards with "Bond Villains" from the opposing teams, manufactured clutch shaped drink coasters, Leadfinger cocktail shakers and served lemon water in mini martini glasses. 

"In a gentle way you can shake the world"

-MaHATMA Gandhi

A core part of our team mission was to increase awareness of STEAM initiatives in the local community. We partnered with the Boys & Girls Club of Pasadena and volunteered to teach a class in Design Process to local youth. 

Students created clay models based on self generated orthographic drawings.

Students created clay models based on self generated orthographic drawings.

We designed a curriculum based on automotive design principles and led instruction in ideation, drawing and clay modeling.

A student tests out driving "Leadfinger."

A student tests out driving "Leadfinger."

Team member, Atria Azarmi demonstrates clay carving tecniques.

Team member, Atria Azarmi demonstrates clay carving tecniques.

Zach Buchman guides students in a drawing exercise.

Zach Buchman guides students in a drawing exercise.

We used our car as a point of entry for students to get excited about design. In the end, students walked away from class with their own orthographic drawings,modeled clay cars and digital 3D models generated from their work.

In the year after the competition, Team Leadfinger was asked to visit China to lead design discussions at several universities. My co-captain and I traveled to China and delivered talks on ideation, R&D and the iterative design process. We traveled thousands of miles from Beijing to Ji-Nan to Guangzhou and Shantou, and met with hundreds of students along the way.

Some presentations were large format lectures and others were intimate discussions with small groups. We rarely knew in advance how many people we would be visiting so we prepared multiple programs to engage any audience we encountered.