Handmade soapbox cars race in one-north this weekend

Yolo team members from Seagate Singapore Design Centre The Shugart, including (from far left) Henry Go, Xavier J. Paliath, Goh Sok Li, Win Yongrattana and Chong Sien Huay, modelled their soapbox racer after the Star Wars X-wing starfighter.
Yolo team members from Seagate Singapore Design Centre The Shugart, including (from far left) Henry Go, Xavier J. Paliath, Goh Sok Li, Win Yongrattana and Chong Sien Huay, modelled their soapbox racer after the Star Wars X-wing starfighter.PHOTO: GIN TAY FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Biopolis Road will be transformed into an obstacle course for an unconventional competition called a soapbox race tomorrow.

Contestants will not be racing wooden crates, but soapbox cars, which are handmade, non-motorised cars powered by gravity and kinetic energy.

The cars will be judged on speed, creativity, how well they clear the 200m obstacle course, and showmanship.

The unusual race is part of the Race.Eat.Play @ one-north Festival, an innovation event organised by JTC Corporation.

Running today and tomorrow and open to the public, festival highlights include Future Food Street, where visitors can try new culinary concepts such as nitrogen desserts, and a section called Robotics Jamming, with workshops on programming robots and flying drones.

The soapbox race has drawn 14 teams so far. Half of them come from companies in one-north - the cluster of buildings housing research facilities in industries such as biomedical science and infocomm technology - and the other half from the public, including a student-teacher team from ITE.

One hardworking team is Yolo (short for "you only live once"), comprising nine members from from Seagate Singapore Design Centre The Shugart, which researches data storage solutions.

  • VIEW IT / RACE.EAT.PLAY @ ONE-NORTH FESTIVAL

  • WHERE: Biopolis @ one-north, Biopolis Way

    WHEN: Today and tomorrow, 11am to 6pm

    ADMISSION: Free, register at www.raceeatplay.com for event perks

For the past three weekends, the team members have been test-driving their car around their office in one-north. They even made a trip to Skyline Luge Sentosa, without their soapbox, to practise driving a similar vehicle.

Their car, which they spent close to two months designing and building, is modelled after the X-wing starfighter from Star Wars.

The race requires only one driver, but they have back-up ones "just in case".

To earn showmanship points, the team will dress as Star Wars characters - such as a Storm Trooper, Darth Vader and Princess Leia - and perform a dance.

Yolo team member Goh Sok Li, 34, says: "If you're going to do something, you might as well go all the way."

Another team that will be speeding down Biopolis Road tomorrow is Hot Potato, made up of three engineers, a salesman and a designer from Innosparks, an open lab by ST Engineering which focuses on innovation.

Their plan is to create a soapbox that looks like a halved potato on fire, although one member, engineer Mikail Lo, 32, jokes that "it looks more like a slip-on shoe at the moment".

The team took about a month and a half to design and create the soapbox that is made largely from aluminium and PVC pipes.

Mr Lo says: "We are confident we can build it, since we've got a few engineers. It's fun to challenge what we think we can do."

Mr Aaron Tham, director of new estates in one-north's landlord JTC, says the festival is pitched at onenorth workers and the public.

"Hopefully, by bringing young children into one-north to understand what the industries here are doing, we can inculcate a love and passion for engineering and R&D as well."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2017, with the headline 'Racing handmade cars in one-north'. Print Edition | Subscribe