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Webb School senior has a big idea

by Andrew Alonzo | aalonzo@claremont-courier.com
On Wednesday afternoon, all eyes were on Webb School senior Victor Zhang. Students, faculty, and staff at the school have heard talk over the last few days about the senior who built a go-cart from scratch and on Wednesday, all got to see Zhang’s go-cart in action as the student took it for a victory lap around campus following months of building and testing.

Zhang explained the go-cart project stemmed from his passions for motorsports, including NASCAR and Formula 1 racing, and for building things. While he’s gotten older and develops both passions further on his own, he gave credit to both his mother and grandmother for “steering” him in his creative direction. Their guidance and encouragement were what helped Zhang make this project a reality.

The idea for the project popped into Zhang’s head in February 2020, although he said it was not executed until one of the most creative time in history, last year’s quarantine period in April.

“I did not start drawing or designing the thing until April 10, 2020 which I remember very distinctly because it was a little bit after quarantine and I had nothing to do,” Zhang said. He added that he could not go down to the local track to drive go-carts, especially during quarantine, since it — along with most businesses — were closed. So, he asked himself, “why not just build one myself?”

“There have been tons of videos on YouTube on things like this. There are a lot of templates so it didn’t seem like such a hard thing to do at first,” Zhang said.

A year of designing the final go-cart followed. Zhang not only had to account for how his seated body weight would affect the cart, but also how his and other forces could and would affect the cart during drive time.

Zhang said that parts for the cart started coming together in April 2021, a year after designing the cart.

“It was in April 2021 when I bought the first part of it (the engine) … I got it from a local Harbor Freight store,” he said. “Then between April and June I started buying all the parts online and in person from Home Depot, for example the frames are from Home Depot.”

The go-cart Zhang built is a small, light framed vehicle about four-and-a-half feet in length and two and a half feet in width. It does not derive from any type of current go-cart models Zhang said, but it features what most go-carts are made of: a small engine Zhang got from Harbor Freight Tools, a seat composed of two pieces of wood, and 3D-printed pedals and steering wheel.

Parts are still coming in as Zhang hopes to make minor improvements to the cart. He said the total price tag of his go-cart came out to around $500 and $800. Before the COURIER’s jaw met the floor because of how cheap the overall cart was, the blow was softened when Zhang shared his three-dimensional printer helped cut costs drastically.

“I got a 3D printer in March [and] that’s how I saved a lot of money. The steering wheel … a lot of parts are 3D printed,” Zhang said.

During the carts testing phases, it was able to reach speeds of up to 37 miles per hour according to Zhang, and it is capable of cruising though it’s just a one-seater. All, including the COURIER, were amazed at what the young mind had seen, designed and properly executed with the fully functioning go-cart. But despite its small frame and the engineering that went into creating this machine, school officials said Zhang is not allowed to ride the cart around campus for safety precautions.

Looking ahead, the senior hopes to study mechanical engineering in college a year from now. After graduating from college, Zhang hopes to combine his passion for building and motorsports by working as a mechanic or mechanical engineer on a racing team.

In Formula 1 racing, Zhang said he likes Mercedes cars over other makes. He also shared Lewis Hamilton is his favorite F1 driver, while Scottish driver Jim Clark is his favorite of all time.

 

 

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