From left are students Izaak Frost, Campbell
Thomson, Jessie-May Turner and Harrison Drayton

A group of students from the University of Plymouth will be combining their engineering expertise with raising environmental awareness after being selected to participate in a major international event.

The four Stage 1 engineering students – under the team name The Dramatic Aquatic – will be joining around 70 other teams on the start line of the 2017 Red Bull Soapbox Race in London on Saturday 9 July.

They are now putting the finishing touches to their design in the hope of producing a vehicle that will speed down the 420m track at Alexandra Palace, and survive intact.

They are also starting to create an eye-catching exterior shell that will raise awareness of the problem of marine litter, a subject in which the University is leading the way in terms of research and awareness-raising.

And they are developing a 20-second crowd-pleasing performance, which they will have to act out before pushing their soapbox into action.

The team comprises students Harrison Drayton, Izaak Frost, Campbell Thomson and Jessie-May Turner, who started working together during their Plymouth Plus module.

Harrison said:

“We looked at the projects previous engineering students have been involved in, such as the handcycling world record and human-powered submarines, and thought this would be a great next step for us. Our lecturers agreed so we started to get creative with the design, and settled on one that we thought would be fast and competitive. But we also wanted to showcase something Plymouth is known for, and promoting the global problem of marine litter and the University’s research into it seemed the perfect option.”

The frame of the soapbox will be constructed in the engineering workshops at the University, providing a strong and rigid frame which should survive the course’s many obstacles.

The exterior will then be made out of plastics which the students plan to collect through beach cleans, all formed together in the shape of a squid.

The students are currently combining work on the project with finishing their Stage 1 exams, but are confident of having everything complete before the race in July.

They added:

“Over the course of the project we have become more aware of how our engineering designs can have an impact on our environment. Not only can we make our designs more sustainable by using low-impact resources, recycled materials and re-engineering parts, we can use our products to promote and raise awareness of environmental and social issues. By producing this soapbox we are hoping to influence more of the community to be aware of the impact littering has, and encourage them to be more conscious of their actions.”