Fringe takes top honors in design

Last week, Wiegand Gymnasium was home to much more than just the Republican nominee for President. By 10 a.m. Thursday morning, the gym was the scene of 11 student organizations and almost 30 buggies, each of which showcased the engineering and artistic brilliance of some of the finest minds Carnegie Mellon has to offer. Organizations with buggies on display were Alpha Epsilon Pi, Carnegie Involvement Association (CIA), Fringe, Kappa Delta Rho, Phi Kappa Theta, Pi Kappa Alpha, Pioneers, Student Dormitory Council (SDC), Sigma Phi Epsilon, Sigma Nu, and SPIRIT. Ranging in design from sleek and shiny to large and rough, the buggies on display were sometimes unique, and all were remarkable achievements for their organizations.

The student groups were all vying for the chance to be crowned the best designed buggy by either a People’s Choice vote or by a panel of faculty judges. While all buggies competing in Friday and Saturday’s races had to be present at the competition, the organizations could decide whether or not to enter the actual design competition, for which they could select up to two buggies for evaluation. The design competition, in which seven buggies from CIA, Fringe, KDR, Pioneers, and Sig Ep were judged by faculty members, is based on several categories, including physical engineering and aesthetic impression. All those present in the gymnasium that morning had a chance to vote for their favorite buggy, whether the best engineered or just the easiest on the eyes.

AEPi’s two buggies, Zephyrus and Camo, were built in two different eras, yet still looked very similar. Camo, circa 1986, lived up to its name, going for an obvious camouflage effect, possibly to sneak by racers on the course, with purple, light purple, and blue colors painted onto a solid blue buggy. Zephyrus was built just last year and, like its compatriot, was slightly larger than most of the other buggies.

CIA brought three buggies to Wiegand Gym: Firebird, which was entered in the design competition, Mirage, and Conquest. All three appeared somewhat heavy, yet were sleek and shiny, obviously freshly prepared for the design competition — as were their makers, who dressed up for the occasion. Firebird’s main attractions included a pushbar that drops to reduce drag during the freeroll and large wheels to further increase speed.

Fringe had five buggies on display, including last year’s first- and second-place finishers in the design competition, Banyan and Bantam, respectively. This year, the primarily Buggy-centric organization entered yet another buggy into the competition, Bristol, decorated in pure silver coloring. All of Fringe’s buggies had slick fairings covering the wheels. The organization’s buggies have held the top spot in the design competition since 1999.

“Anyone can submit a paint design for a buggy, but the mechanics have the final say,” said Hannah Rosenblum, a junior biological sciences major in Fringe who drives for Pioneers. Though knowledgeable about buggy design, Rosenblum was also enthusiastic about driving. “It’s really fun driving, going 30 to 40 miles per hour on the freeroll, inches off the ground,” she said.

KDR entered one buggy in the design competition, Perun, which placed third and won the People’s Choice award in last year’s competition. The buggy was made with cutting-edge composite construction (materials with a high strength-to-weight ratio) and is one of the fastest in the organization’s long and successful Buggy history.

While most teams had several representatives, usually mechanics and drivers, watching over and answering questions about the buggies on display, Phi Kap’s present members didn’t have much to say about the fraternity’s single entrant in the competition; both were fast asleep from the moment their buggy, Svengali, entered the gym. The buggy was black and had a cool-tinted, four-window design on the front that had the look of a high-speed train.

PiKA’s well-known Buggy dominance doesn’t usually translate to the design competition, in which the organization does not enter its vehicles for reasons of secrecy. This year, though, PiKA’s four buggies, Chimera, Brimstone, Zeus, and Knightfall, all looked sleek with black paint jobs, and were some of the cleanest-looking buggies, without duct taped odd spots on their buggies’ surfaces like some of the other teams’ vehicles.

Keres, Pioneers’ newest buggy, raced all alone in its first Sweepstakes competition after not meeting the 10-roll requirement last spring, which requires all buggy drivers to participate in at last 10 practice rolls before being allowed to compete. Despite its large size, Keres is a competitive buggy with its large, ornately designed wheels. Pioneers also raced Chaos in Friday’s preliminary races.

SDC, like PiKA, had four buggies on display: Envy, Psychosis, Addiction, and Rage. All are painted in single solid colors of green, gray, yellow, and red, respectively. Each of the buggies featured a reflective windscreen to prevent other teams from seeing in, while still allowing the driver to see out.

Like Fringe and PiKA, Sig Ep introduced a brand new buggy this year, which was entered in the design competition. Messiah, the new buggy, is lighter and smaller than the fraternity’s previous buggies. Pandora and Enigma, built in 2006 and 2007, respectively, were also on display, with Enigma representing one of the larger buggies from the organization’s past.

Sig Nu raced three buggies this year: Skua, Okapi, and King of Spades. In keeping with several other fraternities, the buggies were all a sleek black, but with relatively wide shapes, inset wheels, and some stray duct tape patching scratches and damage made over the years, which slightly lowered the overall aesthetic affect.

SPIRIT’s Seraph, Shaka Zulu, Kingpin, and Kufu Haraka were freshly-painted with colorful and elaborate designs. Clean, sleek, and sharp-looking, SPIRIT’s buggies may not have won the top prize during the races, but the organization did come away with the People’s Choice award for Kingpin.

“We went with a superhero theme this year,” said graduate student Neha Padhi, a member of SPIRIT who is studying electrical and computer engineering. “*Seraph*, Kingpin, and Haraka are adorned with Superman, The Flash, and Wonder Woman colors and designs.”

The design competition winners were announced Saturday, with Fringe taking first and second place for Banyan and Bristol, respectively, and Sig Ep’s Messiah placing third.