Students at Cal State Bakersfield, as well as a few high school students, got to show off their engineering skills on Saturday while also having some competitive fun.

The university’s School of Natural Sciences, Math and Engineering held its first Rowdy Cart Race. As part of the event, teams of students had to build their own vehicles and use them in speed and obstacle course challenges on campus.

In the obstacle course, students were required to create a grabbing device to collect items throughout the track and navigate through speed bumps and other challenges.

The theme of the event was based on the “Super Mario Kart” video game. Some of the students named their teams after game characters and designed their carts in recognition of the game.

For the past several months, students have been putting together their vehicles using bicycle parts donated by the Bakersfield Police Department, a process many teams said was difficult.

“The biggest obstacle we had to overcome was the lack of quality parts. They were old bikes that were donated that we had to reuse,” said Fernando Catalan, part of the team Rowdy Pirates. “If everybody had the perfect parts and as many as they wanted, everyone would have had the perfect vehicle.”

Catalan said another challenge was figuring out times to work on the vehicle that would fit with everyone’s schedules. The group was made up of five students.

“When everybody showed up and we started working as a group, we saw a lot of progress being made,” he said.

Although the team was able to get their vehicle ready in time for the race, they were knocked out of the running about halfway through after some of the parts started failing. However, Catalan said it was still a fun experience that he learned a lot from.

“I study computer engineering, which has more to do with software. Before this, I didn’t really have much experience using a saw or welding, so it helped improve my skills in working with tools,” he said. “The process was arduous, but the end result was fun and really rewarding.”

Team Yoshi managed to complete the obstacle course, although member John Malasarte said they had their own share of challenges, including an incident where some of their parts were taken by other students.

“It was frustrating at times, but in the end we put our heads together and found a way,” he said. “It was challenging and we made some mistakes on the obstacle course, but it was still fun.”

Malasarte said he hopes the event will become a new tradition at the college, providing a fun outlet for engineering students at the university.

“Just building things is really fun. You get your hands dirty and play a part in a team,” he said. “It’s helped me with a lot of hands-on skills that I don’t usually get to do in my classes. I think it might make future students more interested in studying engineering.”

Joseph Luiz can be reached at 661-395-7368. Follow him on Twitter: @JLuiz_TBC.

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