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Engineering club to build go-kart

Until he watched “Fast and Furious 6” on the big screen, Ammar Babar ’18 had never realized just what a car could be. One scene has lingered in his mind for the past three years: The movie’s antagonist, a fugitive, emerges from his concrete barracks in a sleek open-wheeled speed car. Machine gun bullets ricochet from its windshield as it roars past a swat line. “It was beautiful,” Babar said.

Soon after he watched “Fast and Furious,” Babar went go-karting with a group of friends. Compared with the movie’s high-speed getaway car, his kart was underwhelming. “I thought, ‘We could make something better than this.'”

Now president of the Carleton Automobile Enthusiast Society, Babar just got his chance. His fledgling club has been granted nearly $2,000 by the Carleton Student Association, among the largest sums a student club has ever gotten on its first ask, according to Budget Committee minutes. Babar plans to use the money to build an electric go-kart, a project he says will offer valuable experience to aspiring engineers.  

As soon as the money comes through, he’ll start ordering parts: cold rolled steel tubing, a torque converter kit, nuts and bolts. Club members will assemble the parts, then tinker until they’ve reached an optimal design, hopefully by mid-fall, Babar said. That’s when young engineers start applying for summer internships. Babar hopes to give club members a fun challenge and a nugget for their resumes.

Babar’s club has already attracted 20 core members, he says. When he tabled in Sayles on a recent afternoon, 44 more students signed up for the group’s email list. Opportunities to practice engineering are rare at Carleton. The Carleton Robotics Club, once a popular offshoot of the physics department, has recently been dormant.

“This is a niche of students we haven’t gotten before,” said CSA Vice President Abha Laddha, who chairs Budget Committee. She said Budget Committee granted the club’s full request, despite its high sum because the club promised to attract many students. Without projects like this, aspiring engineers wouldn’t be able to develop their engineering interests at Carleton.

And unlike a cappella, political activism and other typical Carleton activities, engineering is inherently expensive, Laddha said. Babar made a strong case, she said, that $1,771 was the bare minimum needed for a worthwhile project. “We felt it was worthy,” Laddha said.

Once the go-kart is finished, club members will enter engineering competitions and maybe even travel to auto shows, Babar said. After that? “I would love to join a Formula One team.”

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