SEMA 2015 Final Update – 95+ Hours (Part 1/2)


We didn’t win this year. In fact, no one in our category did. Was it challenging? Yes. Was it brutally exhausting? Yes. Was it a failure? I would say no. The thing is (and I’m not trying to justify our lack of results), every one of our team members at competition, as well as many back home in Edmonton, poured their heart and souls into this project.

While we were ultimately unable to bring a new car to competition, we worked around that issue by replacing the entire electrical system and working out some mechanical inefficiencies. And while we couldn’t complete the seven required laps to have an official time, we worked tirelessly to fix the problems that were in our control – even the ones that almost made us quit. I’m proud of our team members who demonstrated their dedication to their colleagues and to their friends. Even past the point of exhaustion, our team pushed ahead to address our car’s problems. It’s hard to wonder how any of us are still awake and tackling final exams for the next two weeks.

Let’s back up. After a successful tech inspection, and my jinxing sentence (“With the pressure lower than that of last night…“), we were excited to finally give our car a test run. While Kent started to do a few laps, I followed (safely) beside him. Suddenly, I noticed that our rear right motor wiring was wrapping around that repaired axle. Additionally, our brakes were audibly rubbing against the rear right wheel’s rotors. So as we examined the axle, we realized that the other side of the same shaft had also sheared. Oh.

“Well, is this it? Can we fix this?”

“I would say no.”

“Ok. Let’s try and brainstorm a bit anyways. How about…”

There was a point that night when I fully admit I had almost given up. We had just spent the afternoon and evening firefighting (figuratively, thankfully) and I felt there wasn’t much left to my mind. But as a team, we made the explicit decision to each other that we would overcome our problems. And then came the genius (Nik) – the second side shearing would allow us to securely weld both sides back together without damaging any electronics!

Like the night before the Home Depot run, we planned our moves and some back up plans to boot. Afterwards, we rushed back to camp for some rest. That’s another wonderful thing I experienced at SEMA2015 – undeniable, raw, selfless teamwork. “Are you ok? Get some rest – I’ll take over for a while.” These words were said with complete sincerity and really helped me feel my teammates’ dedication to not just our car’s success, but to our team’s.  We all knew the next day would be equally taxing but with even less room for error, and we supported each other each step of the way, even in our darkest hour (literally, and figuratively).






Fast forward a couple of hours, and we finally made it to the last possible trial time slot for Hydrogen Fuel Cell Urban Concept cars. Due to timing issues with flights and exams, Mike Bardwell was unable to drive. This left me in the fireproof coat and hefty helmet. “Muffle muffle luck [inaudible] muffle.

I moved to the start line. “Muffle muffle E-stop muffle sorry.” What? I looked at the race official who had moved to the right of my car. I gestured at him for a thumbs up or down, and he gave me an up, followed by a waving green flag. I put the pedal to the medal gently eased onto the POWAH pedal, or so I called it. Nothing. Nada. Nilch. None. 0%. Not even backwards. We went back to the prepping area, and quickly diagnosed the issue. The hydrogen purge line was out of place by a centimeter and tripped the emergency hydrogen sensor. We also weren’t sure if the race official had accidentally pressed our E-stop.






And so we lined up again. “Sorry guys, the team ahead of you is the last one we’re letting on the track.” Oh. “But wait, just in case.” According to the rules, a team is not allowed to queue if their car is not 100% ready to go. The team ahead of us was frantically working on their car, even asking us for a wrench (which we luckily had available to share with them – we hoped that they would also be allowed to run). And so, I drove to the start line once more. Green flag. POWAH. No powah. Nothing. I reset the power. Nothing. The race officials pulled me back to let the team we helped onto the line. They were also a no-go.

My teammates quickly rushed over to diagnose. I’m not certain of what electrical magic they pulled off, but I was suddenly in control again. For the third time, I drove up to the start line. The cliché goes, “third time’s the charm,” right?

One last look.


Green flag. Easy on the throttle – … I was away.

In that brief moment, I thought back to Salma’s famous quote, “What do MecE’s even do anyways?” and suddenly grew an even greater respect of the electrical team. I had no idea what they had changed (“Muffle muffle”), but I was free like a –

The motors cut out. Oh no.