MBA Students Use Creative Fuel to Build Human-Powered Race Car

UT Dallas Students Were Among 40 Teams Picked to Compete in National Red Bull Soapbox Race

Oct. 4, 2012

A team of full-time MBA students can add amateur race car driver to their résumés after competing in the Red Bull Soapbox Race at Austin Ranch in The Colony on Sept. 15.

Thousands of spectators turned out for the race, which featured 40 teams, including the University’s very own “UTD MBAs,” a group of five graduate students at the Naveen Jindal School of Management. The team members were Vance Weintraub, Matt Ritter, Rafael Barbosa, Mallory Savoie and Brian Ragan.

members of the UTD MBAs soapbox derby team

Showmanship was part of the competition for the UTD MBAs team, which donned astronaut outfits and Secret Service agent garb.

The UTD MBAs designed and constructed a green-and-orange soapbox car, which was called The Comet. Each car had a creative theme such as the Blues Brothers or the Oregon Trail. Each team also performed a skit that was set to music as a way to acquire showmanship points. Weintraub, Barbosa and Ragan dressed up as Secret Service agents while Ritter and Savoie dressed up as astronauts for the skit.

After the skit, Ritter and Savoie drove The Comet car in a downhill course that had jumps and curves. Weintraub said he felt nervous about some of the jumps particularly one that was four feet high.

“You get airborne,” he said of the course. “If you’re going somewhat fast, you’re going to get thrown a couple feet off the ground.”

The group was selected to compete in the race out of several hundred applications that Red Bull received. It took about two months for the team to build the car, which was challenging at first. Nobody on the team had an engineering background or had worked as a mechanic before. Weintraub, who has a product design background, said much research was conducted to learn how to build the car.

the green and orange UT Dallas car

It took about two months for the UT Dallas team to build its green-and-orange soapbox car, which was called The Comet.

“It taught us a lot of engineering skills,” he said of the construction phase.  “One of the big things, and I knew this and a lot of people learned, is how to use all your resources in terms of finding products, and finding people.”

The group had to identify potential sponsors who could help fund the project. The sponsors included the following: the Jindal School of Management; 7-Eleven; Geocent; Allan Tomlinson, a Jindal School of Management Advisory Council member; and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Diane McNulty, associate dean of external affairs at the Jindal School, said the sponsorship support was a tremendous resource for the students.

“We’re grateful to our sponsors who supported this student-led endeavor,” she said. “Our students benefited from their support, which allowed them to work on a project that fostered creativity, leadership, teambuilding skills and innovation.”

The team also received help from their classmates in the MBA program. The classmates participated in a car-painting party.

“The teamwork paid off not only for the five people on the team, but for the whole MBA program,” Barbosa said. “A lot of people were involved.”

Approximately 20 classmates, Jindal School administrators and friends turned out to support the UT Dallas team at the race. While the UTD MBAs didn’t place, Barbosa said participating in the event was beneficial.

“It was great advertising and awareness for UT Dallas,” he said. “All the cars were lined up where people came in to get to the racetrack. Our car was close to the entrance and you’d get people yelling, ‘UTD! I went there!’ or ‘My wife went there!’ ”


Media Contact: Marissa Alanis, 972-883-2155, mxa117530@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, 972-883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu.
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December 22, 2014