Extreme Sports
Julie Sygiel, a junior, is promoting the Edible CarChallenge to build ties between engineering students and the Brown community. Credit: John Abromowski/Brown University

Edible cars to race for ‘fastest food’ bragging rights

Engineering students have organized a different kind of car race: one featuring vehicles made of food. They’ll rev up at 4 p.m. this Thursday on Manning Walk.

By Staff  |  April 8, 2008  |  Email to a friend

Speeding spuds? Zipping zucchini? On Thursday, “fast food” will take on new meaning when the campus’s first Edible Car Race, organized by Brown engineering students, kicks off at 4 p.m. on Manning Walk near the Barus and Holley building. The cars, created from materials ranging from bagels to butternut squash and from carrots to cookies, will be judged on appearance and performance.

The contest idea came from Julie Sygiel ’09, a chemical engineering concentrator. She had competed in similar contests as a middle schooler in Kentucky – learning through trial and error that, for example, rice cakes were a better choice than donuts for wheels. At Brown, she and members of the Xtreme Special Events Committee wanted to stage a competition that would be fun and build ties between engineering students and the Brown community.

Contestants will build their vehicles by choosing eight items from the following foodstuffs: bagels, butternut squash, carrots, eggplant, potatoes, pretzels, rice cakes, and zucchini. They also can make their vehicles more functional or dress them up by choosing ingredients such as gum drops, marshmallows, peanut butter, and strawberry icing. Teams also can bring their own parts, so long as they are edible.

The engineering students have built a ramp measuring three–and-a-half feet high – with “a lot of speed potential,” they say – on which the edible vehicles will be placed and then released, careening downhill and measured to the point on the walkway at which they stop, flip over, or fall apart – whichever comes first.

“We wanted something that would be entertaining,” Sygiel said.

“And it’s going to look funny,” added fellow organizer Sara Glick ’10, a computer engineering concentrator.

Organizers will place checkered flags along Manning Walk along with an edible “victory arch.”

“It’s going to be a good spectator sport,”Glick said.

Greg Crawford, dean of the Division of Engineering, said the competition pushes students’ creativity to the limit. “By utilizing unusual materials to design a simple vehicle," he explains, "the students will apply basic concepts of design and dynamics they have learned in the classroom."

All are welcome to view the race.