Hot Wheels: Parking Lot Regatta a learning experience

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By Jim DeLa

NASCAR, it wasn’t.

But for the eight students in assistant professor of art Ryan Buyssens’ sculpture class, the Parking Lot Regatta Dec. 2 was the culmination of a semester’s worth of work, where they were tasked with building a self-propelled vehicle and racing it around the Caples Fine Arts Complex.

For the record, third-year student Garland Hanson streaked across the finish line atop her tricycle about 10 minutes or so after the race started.

Well, not “streaked,” exactly.

She struggled to get her big-wheeled trike up an incline to the finish line, falling off the seat a couple of times in the process. Seconds after her finish, she said the hardest thing about the race was “riding it,” saying her creation was “very inconvenient, very tiring. I could barely steer,” she said. But it performed better than the rest of the field. “It worked. It didn’t break! So, I’m proud of it.”

The goal, Buyssens said, was to learn about problem-solving. “Not only did they have to learn welding and metalworking skills, they also had to learn mechanical skills, and understand a mechanism.”

Most of the racers had mechanical breakdowns of one sort of another during the race. Several completed the race by being pushed across the finish line by friends. Autumn Schwers, a fourth-year, lost the rear axle of her fairy tale-themed ride somewhere on the course. “I got here with most of it!” she said.

Schwers said she learned a lot about engineering during the semester. “I’ve welded before,” she said, “but figuring out the mechanics is more complex than you think.”

Classmate Cindy Kim’s pedal-driven machine was decorated with kitchen utensils. She said her innovation to allow silverware to drag the ground to create a wind-chime effect was a pleasant surprise. “It actually sounded nice,” she said, adding that making a vehicle is not as easy as you think. “But it was a fun class. I enjoyed it.”

Keilon Sabourin, a second-year student, fashioned a welded 3-D rectangle with pedals and handlebars, sporting a Yellow Submarine theme. “I’m a big Beatles fan,” he said. Before the race, he tied a hammock to the rectangle to sit in during the race. “That’s my bed, so I couldn’t install this before this morning.”

Saburin’s takeaway from the class: “Everything is hard. Art takes so much freakin’ work!” he laughed. For the record, he didn’t finish the race after suffering a catastrophic breakdown on the course. “A part fell off. Apparently the most important part.”

Buyssens said he was proud of his students’ hard work. He hand-crafted trophies for everyone, and handed them out after the race. Categories included Most Sandblasted (Claire Stout), Most Character (Autumn Schwers), Best Design (Keilon Sabourin), Most Goofy (Garland Hanson), Most Precious (Precious Darling), Most Time-Consuming (Kennon Gilson), and Heaviest and Most Rusty (Clayton Bauldree and Gabriel Sobol).

— Jim DeLa is digital communications coordinator at New College of Florida.


Located in Sarasota, New College of Florida has educated intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement since its founding in 1960. As the State of Florida’s designated honors college, New College provides an exceptional education that transforms students’ intellectual curiosity into personal accomplishment. The 110-acre campus on Sarasota Bay is home to more than 700 students and 80 full-time faculty engaged in interdisciplinary research and collaborative learning. New College offers nearly 40 areas of concentration for undergraduates and a master’s degree program in Data Science.

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