Racing mini dirt bikes for 24 hours on a muddy figure-eight track that has its layout changed every four hours may sound punishing or extreme to some, but to students involved with Missouri S&T’s Makerspace group, it just sounded fun.
Missouri S&T’s team recently earned sixth place out of 40 teams and won a team spirit award at the 24 Hours of Les Minis off-road mini dirt bike race. The challenge, which was sponsored by the Gambler 500 Florida organization, was held last month in Jacksonville, Florida.
“This is the first time Makerspace has ever participated in this type of event, but I hope it will become an annual tradition,” says Brendan Crotty, a junior in mechanical engineering from Muskogee, Oklahoma, who is the group’s CEO. “Everyone left the challenge exhausted, but we had a ton of fun. The team raced a total of 1,193 laps through the 24 hours.”
Missouri S&T’s Makerspace organization provides space for students to use 3D printers, machining equipment, electronics equipment and a variety of tools. They also have welding equipment and offer free training for those interested.
“This year, one of the members of our team had some mini-bikes that he wanted to work on, and the idea to take part in this race just took off from there,” Crotty says.
In the Makerspace lab, the team prepared the bikes to ensure they had larger knobby tires, working motors and other mechanical features, and fresh paint.
“Keeping the bikes in working order for 24 hours was a challenge,” Crotty says. “We started with four bikes, but by the end, we only had one still working, and it had an assortment of parts from the other bikes.”
Eric Bonney, a senior in mechanical engineering from Philadelphia, Missouri, was one of the team’s drivers. He says this is an experience he will never forget.
“I was the first driver on the course for Missouri S&T, and we got off to a great start,” he says. “The race had the traditional Le Mans start, which meant all of the drivers had to run to their vehicles, start them up and take off.”
In total, the S&T team had six drivers taking shifts on the track, plus five members working in the pit crew and counting laps for the entirety of the 24-hour race.
“It was truly a team effort,” Bonney says. “The drivers would race until they felt like they couldn’t go on, and then they would go some more.”
Bonney says another element of the challenge was the drivers’ wardrobes.
“We had on all of the required safety gear, but our drivers had a lot of fun with costumes as well,” he says. “Halloween costumes, banana suites—we had some great attire. It was an awesome experience.”
Dr. Phil Mulligan, an assistant teaching professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at S&T who serves as the group’s faculty advisor, says he is proud of what the team accomplished – especially the fact they came home with the Gambler Award to recognize their team spirit and volunteer work.
“Our team won the spirit award because they were extremely polite, always cheering on each other, had the most volunteers to help at the event and were always willing to help their competitors,” he says. “I am extremely proud of the team and the level of professionalism they exhibited during the event.”
Members of the team include:
Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) is a STEM-focused research university of over 7,000 students. Part of the four-campus University of Missouri System and located in Rolla, Missouri, Missouri S&T offers 101 degrees in 40 areas of study and is among the nation’s top 10 universities for return on investment, according to Business Insider. For more information about Missouri S&T, visit www.mst.edu.