Most college kids are probably spending their weekends studying like crazy or partying into the night.
But for around 40 Columbia University students, a typical Friday night consists of welding metals and writing budget reports in the basement of an engineering building.
The Knickerbocker Motorsports team is hard at work building a race car that will go from 0 to 60 mph in 4 seconds over the course of one year.
Team members split the work between engineering and managing the car’s budget. This year the whole project will cost an estimated $US30,000. The financing primarily comes from donations from sponsors and the university itself.
The project starts in September and goes all the way through finals week at the end of the spring semester. In May, the team enters the Formula SAE collegiate racing competition.
Five team members are taking a related 1-to-3 credit course to have more time to work on the car. But for the rest of the team, this is purely an extracurricular activity with no financial payoff and no class credit. They do it because they it’s fun.
The team has improved in terms of both engineering skill and budget management over the last few years. It’s also grown in numbers. Back in 2012 there were only 17 members on the squad.
'I had no prior experience with engineering and no prior interest in cars; I just decided to show up after seeing a few of the cheeky, in your face flyers,' Lana Wang, the VP of Logistics, told Business Insider.
Because the Columbia curriculum is extremely rigorous, the only time these students have to work on the car is at night.
'It's crazy. You throw a bunch of full time Columbia students together and they churn out a car that goes 0 to 60 in less than 4 seconds,' said Wang.
'They don't teach you this kind of stuff in class. It's all learned on the job: make sure you criss-cross unidirectional carbon layers during a layup, don't use metric wrenches on standard hex bolts...' said Wang.
(video provider='youtube' id='vjKI13e-CVI' size='xlarge' align='center')
'Even though we come from different academic levels, social circles, and disciplines we become bonded through our common goal of building a racecar from start to finish,' Wang told BI.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.