Kennesaw State University’s Electric Vehicle Team won big at its latest competition, setting a track record and bringing home first place in the autonomous division, and second place in the driven competition.
The team, part of the Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, traveled to Purdue University to compete in the evGrand Prix, an annual, electric go-kart racing event.
“Over the past two years we’ve spent countless hours and countless nights working to improve our go-karts,” said Andrew Goeden, president of the Electric Vehicle Team and third-year computer science major. “We’ve done a lot of research and spent so much time making sure all of our hardware and software was up to the task.”
The Electric Vehicle Team serves as an opportunity for students from different backgrounds to apply knowledge learned in the classroom to all aspects of the design and build process of electric vehicles. Goeden said their constant preparation paid off, especially when the team hit some bumps in the road when they arrived in Indiana.
“Our planned systems ended up not working because of unforeseen issues, but because we had tested so many different software solutions, we had another option,” he added. “We got our backup solutions working, and when we first ran the solution, we saw the go-kart slowly creeping around the first turn on the track. The entire team was watching it, like watching a baby taking its first steps.”
The team’s autonomous go-kart, Voltron, uses sensors to determine the location of cones along the track and includes redundant emergency and dynamic braking systems. Voltron started as part of an electrical engineering senior design project in 2018, and since then has been continually upgraded. On competition day, KSU’s autonomous vehicle broke a track record, completing one lap in one minute and three seconds. The team’s driven go-kart, Evenger, has a top speed of 60 mph and includes front brakes and regenerative braking, which allows the kart to be driven around tight corners.
In addition to the first and second place finishes, KSU’s team received the Sportsmanship Award for helping some of their competitors.
“We’ve been talking with the competition organizers and other teams for so long, we knew what their limitations were,” Goeden said. “Once our go-kart was running properly, we started dedicating some of our efforts to helping the other teams improve their hardware.”
The combination of teamwork and friendly competition has become a recipe for success over the years. The KSU Electric Vehicle Team has competed in the evGrand Prix since the club’s founding in 2013, and continues to rack up awards. Goeden said it’s important for students to find clubs that align with their interests and future goals.
“You don’t have to be a robotics major, and you don’t have to have any experience to join our team,” he said. “Over the years, we’ve built a collection of research documents and learning material, and we teach everyone how to do the research and apply it.”
Bill Diong, advisor to the team and professor of electrical engineering, said the success of the Electric Vehicle Team adds to the rich legacy of SPCEET students excelling in design competitions.
“Their phenomenal achievements are a testament to the students’ self-motivation, hard work and learned ability at engineering practice,” Diong said. “The vitality and success of SPCEET’s various student competition teams highlights an impactful and valuable aspect of the KSU engineering experience that engages and motivates students and helps prepare them to be the kind of engineers that many companies are keen to hire.”
The team regularly upgrades its go-karts and hopes to create one that is both smart and can be driven, similar to a Tesla. Goeden said he expects that project to take at least two years.