Junkyard Trash, Boxcar Treasure

    Team Chim Chim had just one priority last week: sift through piles of junk to construct a boxcar that can fly past the finish line when the time comes. Team Chim Chim turned trash into functioning vehicles for the fourth annual Junkyard Derby, held during the Sun God festivities.

    Arash Keshmiarian/Guardian
    Team Chim Chim captain and UCSD alumnus Bill Sweetman leans in for the finish.

    The Junkyard Derby, inspired by the Discovery Channel television show “”Junkyard Wars,”” allows teams to put their brains to the test while participating in a community event.

    Team Chim Chim, named after the legendary monkey from the show “”Speed Racer,”” consisted of UCSD alumni and staff, but most of the derby teams are made up of groups of students. The creative hands-on experience of the Junkyard Derby attracts all types, representing the community-building ambience for which the Sun God festival is famous.

    Per tradition, preperation starts two days before the event, when all teams are given bracelets indicating the time they are allowed to scavenge for materials in the junkyard. The pink and purple bracelets, given as a reward to teams that had participated in the junkyard scavenger hunt the week before, allowed for a 15-second head start, while those with blue and green bracelets, like Team Chim Chim, had to wait to scour for parts.

    Arash Keshmirian/Guardian
    Team Chim Chim captain Bill Sweetman bares his teeth as he races down the haystack-lined track in the Mach 5 during the Junkyard Derby on May 18. The Mach 5 was designed to pay homage to the TV show “”Speed Racer”” and the show’s monkey, Chim Chim.

    But the late start didn’t faze Team Chim Chim. With a dedicated team of designers, builders and goof-offs, the team was able to pull together their “”Mach 5,”” which received funding from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 20th Century Fox, NASA and Bear Republic Brewing Company. Team Chim Chim, the only professional team competing in the derby, wanted a fast and crowd-pleasing boxcar.

    “”This year the boxcar is more aesthetically pleasing,”” 1994 alumnus Wayde Giliam said. “”It’s a little slower, but it’s the perfect synergy between aesthetics and functionality.”” The boxcar had an sleek coat of white paint and a red number five painted on both sides – a direct homage to their Speed Racer devotions.

    At 11 p.m. two days before the race, team leader Bill Sweetman, a financial adviser to the UC Office of the President, revealed the design to his team. Then the former engineering student and his teammates applied their sponsored materials to the shopping cart frame they found in the junkyard, fastened on three bicycl wheels for speed and stability, and made sure to leave room for aesthetic improvements.

    To develop their boxcar, Team Chim Chim used a modified software development technique called Scrum.

    “”Scrum is a great way to manage all projects and processes,”” said Team Chim Chim member Andrew Watkins, a staff member at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “”The four main components are interaction, vision, communication and cult.”” Scrum philosophy encouraged the team to rapidly use every member’s input to design a car that could be fast, stable and attractive. Scrum requires a tight team dynamic. Team Chim Chim is exactly that.

    On race day, the Junkyard Derby racetrack was marked with piled haystacks and extended down Peterson hill. Students scoped out the various designs, which ranged from Team Mario Kart’s imitation of the popular video game vehicle, to the colorful but slow Team I Heart Sweets’ boxcar, complete with cut out imitations of Sweetheart candies.

    Before heading down the course to challenge Team I Heart Sweets, Sweetman chanted, “”Go speed racer, go speed racer,”” to immerse himself in the racing mindset. The theme music from Speed Racer boomed as Sweetman changed position in the car and gripped the handlebars. Team Chim Chim’s aerodynamic Mach 5 flew by the slow candy boxcar. Then, challenged by the Ninjaneers, Team Chim Chim took on their third race to win again. After each run, the members of Team Chim Chim congratulated each other with high fives, loud grunts and friendly hugs to keep spirits high.

    “”I always wanted to join the cheerleading squad, but my father forced me to join the male modeling team instead,”” Andrew Watkins, a staff member at Scripps Institute of Oceanography said jokingly in an e-mail. “”Here [was] my chance to prove myself – to will our team to victory – since our engineering prowess certainly didn’t look up to the task. Take that, Dad.””

    The entertainment of crashes, costumes and themed music drew attention from even the most unaware students.

    “”That is about as much community as you are going to get,”” Giliam said. “”As an alumnus and now [a] staff [member], I can honestly say it is the best event of the calendar year.””

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