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Annual coaster derby has been rolling for 40 years

Get ready to rev your nonexistent engines, UNB: This year marks the 40th anniversary of the annual Coaster Derby on campus.

A coaster derby is a race between hand-built, gravity-powered vehicles that have no engines or motors. The Student Society for Mechanical Engineers, which hosts the event, doesn’t intend to let the 40th anniversary pass by un-noticed.

“This year, because it will be the first year for NBCC [to participate] and because it’s the 40th anniversary, we’re hoping to make the derby bigger and better,” said Mitchell Small, vice-president of the society.

“We’re also trying to encourage some alumni to come and [we’re] hopeful they’ll bring some pictures and videos as well to compile into a 40th anniversary year book.”

Small is also working on setting up a live video feed from the starting line to the finish line.

“[Our cars] are bigger than typical soap box derby cars, but they’re not quite full-sized cars. They’re kind of between a soap box car and a Smart car,” said Small.

Three cars will be participating in the race this year. Mechanical engineers from UNB as well as a team from NBCC will be driving the cars.

“In the past we’ve had more [cars compete] because students have had more time on their hands. But now it’s a very compact schedule with the academic workload and everything else that’s going on in life,” said Small.

“We just keep passing cars down from student to student to upgrade them over the summer. Hopefully in the next few years we’ll be able to have more cars come and compete as well.”

Small contacted alumni and the Student Union in an effort to spread the word about the derby as much as possible. He also hopes to attract more people with a free barbecue.

“We’re hoping to get a whole lot of publicity for this and get a lot of people out. Hopefully with free food there will be more people coming out, and if worse comes to worst we go get more hot dogs and hamburgers and just keep cooking,” said Small.

Small urges students to refrain from parking in front of residences during the time of the race. At a past event, a car was damaged through a collision with one of the racing cars.

“There were cars parked outside the MacKenzie residence. We didn’t tow them, we didn’t think it was that big of a deal. Until one of the coaster derby cars ran into an actual car and ripped a piece of the back end off of it,” Small said.

Despite some past mishaps, Small still believes the derby is a worthwhile event to have on campus.

“The point is to show UNB spirit. It’s great to show off our talent, our spirit. We don’t have a whole lot of money, but we’ve got the knowledge to be able to build these great cars.”

The races will begin at the South Gym and continue down the hill past the Aitken Centre, the SUB, the majority of residences and finish just past the Currie Center. A viewing section will be set up near the Neville Homestead for spectators.

The races will take place this Saturday, Oct. 18 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a free barbecue offered to all spectators just outside the Neville Homestead.

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