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Metro State News Room

Team Speed Racer defends title in LA

Road trip!

Three Metropolitan State College of Denver industrial design students, a friend and a spouse are heading to downtown Los Angeles to defend their title at the 2009 Red Bull Soapbox Race on Sept. 26, 2009. Hooked up on a trailor behind their truck will be two unique cars, both themed after cars in popular movies – “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Speed Racer.”

Less than two weeks out, “we’re still putting paint on it,” says 31-year-old Metro State student Josh McGuckin about their new car.

The national race for amateur drivers is a non-motorized racing event that challenges both experienced racers and amateurs alike to design and build outrageous, human-powered soapbox dream machines and compete against the clock in a downhill race. Since 2000, Red Bull has produced more than 35 Soapbox Races around the world—from Australia to South Africa, Helsinki to St. Louis, and Jamaica to Italy. Each competition includes 40 to 50 teams.Last October at the event held at Red Rocks Park in Morrison, Colo., the then-named Team Save Ferris, earned a first-place race finish and the People’s Choice Award in a custom-built, scaled-down version of the flaming red 1961 Ferrari 250GT California Spyder made famous in the 1980s cult classic film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

The Ferrari has been on display at the Forney Museum of Transportation in Denver for the last year. It was also displayed in May during the annual Industrial Design Show at the College. The team also enjoyed their prize trip, which took them to the Samsung 500 Nascar race in Fort Worth, Texas.

McGuckin and his fellow Metro State students Matt Fisher (the driver) and Jeremiah Hueske, along with Hueske’s wife Sandra and James Olson made up the team, which was the first in the race’s history to win both titles.

The same members make up this year’s team, which will compete under the name Team Speed Racer. They chose the 2008 movie “Speed Racer,” an action film adaptation of the1960s Japanese animated series of the same name, as their theme.

“We are unique in coming up with a movie theme,” says McGuckin of the variety of themes at the race that have ranged from a baby carriage, to a jail cell to a tenacious taco. “There are movies with really cool cars. We like to make sure the show has a big enough following so people identify with it already.”

“We have really put the Ferrari to shame and made the Mach 5,” McGuckin adds. “This thing is bigger, better and much, much more insane than last year’s car. We are hoping to make Metro State proud again with a victory, but we will see how it goes because it is a much more competitive crowd!”

Every element comes into play for the judges who have three criteria: speed, creativity and showmanship. However, last year’s win did not guarantee them placement this year. They had to re-apply and be accepted.“They’ve done a pretty good job,’ says Assistant Professor of Industrial Design John Wanberg. “They didn’t have a lot of information to work with the first time. For example, this time they are making molds so they can have extras.”

“Our skills have increased since last year,” says 30-year-old Hueske, who is the only member on the team currently working in the industrial design industry.

Catching the professor’s attention The student’s work and success in the soapbox competition caught the attention of Wanberg, who has enlisted them for a special project. McGuckin, Fisher and Hueske are part of a special studies class of six students earning two credits per semester to work on the AXYS project, a two-passenger sport commuter vehicle which tilts and turns like a motorcycle.

“I saw the skills they had and thought it would be good to have a vehicle development team,” says Wanberg, who has been researching sustainable automobiles for a while. “We want to get folks excited about smaller vehicles on the road and the idea of more sustainable automobiles that use less gas. We are trying to get a rough physical prototype for the industrial design show next May.”

To check on the progress for Team Speed Racer, go to For more information about the race in LA, go to

To read about the 2008 victory of Team Save Ferris, go to

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