Return To The Wire


John Sakamato and Luke Morris are holding meetings, raising money, costing out stock items, and weighing the pros and cons of starting fabrication right away or holding off for some possible design changes.  But all this effort isn’t for a start-up, Sakamoto and Morris are part of an extracurricular club called REVO Electric Racing at Olin.

The members including Morris who is the team’s Project Manager, Sakamoto, the marketing manager, Suraj “Sunny” Shroff the financial manager, Alix McCabe the mechanical lead, and Lisa Hachmann the electrical lead, in addition to 35 other students who are making an electric Formula race car to compete in the SAE Collegiate Design competition—the longest running student vehicle competition in the United States. The first leg of the competition is in New Hampshire in May.

REVO offers undergraduates at Olin the chance to build an electric vehicle from the bolts up. In the past, the group has crafted a go-kart, a three-wheeled electric trike and, currently, the team is working on an electric formula racecar. “It’s a chance to go fast and learn about engineering,” said Morris.

Most days, after classes are over, work begins on REVO and continues long into the night. Right now just a few weeks into the semester, the design is at a critical juncture. In order to fashion the steel space-frame properly, the rods need to be sent to Canada to be bent. Sending out the steel is a milestone for the team because it means that the design must be fundamentally set. “At that point nothing can get bigger because everything has to fit within that chassis.”

The students run a structural analysis on every load-bearing part in the car using the software program Solidworks. “This is crucial because if one thing breaks, we have wasted our time,” said Sakamoto.

Which isn’t to say nothing goes wrong. Last year, while working on the “trike,” Morris and Sakamoto who are both mechanical engineering majors, “fried a lot of electrical components” trying to get it to work properly. But, in some ways, that fits with the mission of REVO, which is to “educate engineers to cross disciplinary lines to do real engineering.”

REVO is student-led and the projects are often multi-year in nature, with one year’s team building and improving on last year’s design. The team also hosts events on campus to raise awareness about electrical vehicle technology.

To build the go-kart, the team adapted the powertrain from an electric Zero motorcycle. REVO bought a discounted 2012 Zero XU and proceeded to take it apart, piece-by-piece, screw-by-screw and bolt-by-bolt---all documented on a timelapse video.


The students then retrofitted the powertrain for use on the go-kart. This year, that go-kart--powered by the cannibalized Zero--is zipping around the back of Olin’s large project building at speeds that might be better left undocumented.

The biggest headache the team faces right now isn’t an engineering one, but a financial one. With some generous funding from Boeing and others, REVO has managed to cover its fabrication costs. But there are still tools to buy, travel to book and entrance fees to pay, all of which add up to thousands of dollars.

Despite the challenges, both Sakamoto,  Morris and the rest of the team are looking ahead to the spring when they will be testing and driving their new Formula race car.

Until then, in the large project building last year’s trike and the go-kart are full operational. On a recent sunny day, both Morris and Sakamoto were eager to  don safety helmets, jump into the vehicles and take them for a spin. As he prepared to drive off, Sakamoto said, “In general, there’s just not a better feeling than getting in something you made with your own hands and driving it. It gives me chills every single time.”

If you would like to find out more about REVO, their website is a great place to start. .

To donate to REVO, please follow this link.