Team Steaming Balrog Applies to Join Red Bull Soapbox Race

What combines hacking, rolling fast downhill and  madcap design? Soapbox derbies!

A group of Oxford Hackspace members have put together an entry for the Red Bull Soapbox Race 2017 being held in London in July.

After some discussion on the Oxhack mailing list and receipt of an application pack from Red Bull via snail mail, a willing group of ad hoc vehicle visionaries sat down to bang out some designs.

Taking very much an open table approach to possible designs, no suggestion was turned away; the gamut of fifteen or so ideas ran from giant zorbs, to a Mars rover-inspired design, to a reclining boat shape with bearings up the sides and more. After thorough discussion and a vote, the team settled on some descriptive words for our wagon: Steampunk Instrument Balrog. (Yes, that Balrog.) Then, working within some limitations given by the event rules (like needing to steer, and–God forbid–brake), and taking into account a generous offer of funding from Science Oxford, more concrete ideas started to form.

The application asked for a mechanical drawing, a list of materials and some team details. Inspired but not shackled by our “vision words,” and with careful consideration to chassis practicality and our construction options, we got to work developing the structure and ideas for visual and multisensory presentation. Some new contributors from the community added their engineering knowledge, and sketches were commissioned from team members with proposals on how to stitch it all together. When the dust settled, one, very purple, set of design drawings won out. Here was a design we thought would both impress the spectators and hopefully be possible to bring to reality (often the hardest step in these sorts of events). Application time grew short as we coalesced the main points of this into our submission and sent it off. Phew!

So, may we present an early detail from Team Steaming Balrog’s vehicle, the Thumping Balrog, hopefully riding terrifyingly down a hill near you soon!

We’re meant to hear the result of our application by the 24th of April. If successful, we move on to the building phase, and we’re still happy to have additional volunteers; experience in welding, carpentry, textiles and costume-making are extra welcome, but more hands of any variety are always great!
Wish us luck! x

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