Dylan Banko was one of more than 1,500 graduates to complete their education at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs this year, receiving a degree in mechanical engineering earlier in May.
Banko is set to go to officer school in the Navy July 3. That wasn’t his original ship date, but he negotiated with the Navy to get the date pushed back so he could take care of one last piece of business from his new alma mater:
The Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) event happening in Brooklyn, Mich., June 15-18.
Since his sophomore year, Banko has been a part of High Altitude Race Engineering, a club at UCCS featuring a group of engineers who have spent their spare time building race cars while pursuing an education.
“Jalopy,” the car the team designed last fall and built this spring, is the first vehicle, made by the club, that will be driven at an SAE event. High Altitude Race Engineering debuted the vehicle to the public at UCCS’ downtown event center Friday.
UCCS is one of about 200 schools to participate, and the High Altitude club will bring Jalopy to Michigan for a 20-lap endurance test, just to see how far the car will run.
It will be one of about 60 electric vehicles entered into the competition. It’s a far cry from the team’s previous race car, “Scarlett,” which made it to last year’s competition but was never driven. From it, the team got the the feedback they needed to make their dream car, Jalopy.
The story of High Altitude Race Engineering began in January 2017. The club, then named Mountain Lion Motorsports, headed by students who have since graduated, designed and built “Numero Uno” by that summer on just a $4,000 budget. The car had an aluminum frame, ran on an 80-volt battery, and topped out at 45 mph, but it was a start.
By contrast, Jalopy tops out at 104 mph and can go from zero to 60 in about 2.8 seconds. The cars aren’t the only things getting an upgrade: High Altitude Race Engineering was recently named UCCS’ club of the year. The money raised for Jalopy is about $18,000 and has piqued the interest of sponsors such as Big Mission Motorsports and Kineo Manufacturing.
It’s also easier to recruit other students with a fully finished race-capable vehicle to show off.
“Before we had a physical car to bring out, it was obviously just trying to sell the dream of ‘you guys will help build a car.’ When we finally showed up for fall of 2021 … we were actually able to bring (Scarlett) out on its wheels and say, ‘this is what we made — you can help make the next one,'” said club president Aidan Westbrook.
The goal is to make Jalopy sustainable so it will only need tweaks next year.
Westbrook, Banko and Karl Barstad make up the new, old guard of the club who saw the originators graduate and now feel they have something evolving and special that future students can take forward.
The work attracts all types. Westbrook is an entrepreneur and economics major who was in a different club that worked in the same workshop as High Altitude when he was recruited. Sean Harper also switched over from a different club. Barstad, a mechanical engineer, met the group at Overdrive Raceway, where he worked back when they were still Mountain Lion Motorsports.
Despite the sponsors and increased budgets, the students still pour plenty of their time and money into the vehicles, with many of the parts being designed specifically for the car.
“Any individual person during the heat of manufacturing, and maybe document-building, will put anywhere between 20 and 40 (hours) a week additional (in the shop) just doing team stuff,” Westbrook said.
According to Banko, sophomore clubmate Mareck Newton is responsible for virtually every electrical aspect of Jalopy, no small feat, considering it’s an electric vehicle.
Jalopy runs on six batteries with a maximum 300 volts. It has a weight of 720 pounds with a driver and can run 22 minutes at full power. Its frame is made of carbon fiber.
Regardless of how the vehicle performs in June, the simple fact that it’s a reality that the club can show off is inspiring, says the team’s faculty adviser, Christopher Foley.
“When we think about what goes into a project like this, they’ve evolved from a team that has just put things together to show they can get something to work, to one that has had much more behind-the-scenes analysis, planning, calculations to make sure that where they get is where they want to be in terms of the performance of the vehicle.
“I think it certainly represents a high quality of engineering and engineering at its true meaning.”