EAST COUNTY — You could say that 17-year-old Ahmad Hares has a need for speed — maybe just for creating it.
The recent Braden River High graduate built the fastest CO2 dragster in the nation, racing his way to a first-place finish in the Technology Student Association’s national dragster competition and setting a national record of .925 seconds on a 65-foot track.
He and his teammates Alexandra Villalobos, Cesar Garcia and Brandon Demers also won second place in Formula 1 in Schools and were awarded a special award in manufacturing excellence.
“It was a great way to go out,” Ahmad said of his win. “The best, actually.”
Ahmad’s grandiose win did not come without fanfare. The dragster model he won with at the state competition was wrecked during testing at the school, which forced Ahmad to use his back-up car for the national competition. And in the final race at nationals, Ahmad’s car tied exactly with the second-place winner, forcing a second match-up.
“It was really crazy,” Ahmad said. “It was so dramatic.”
But in the final race, Ahmad’s vehicle took the spotlight. Its .925-second run made his competitor’s .962-second run look slow. The next best time at nationals was .948 seconds.
What may have made the difference was the engineering behind Ahmad’s vehicle. It was the only one at the competition that was designed and analyzed by Computational Fluid Dynamics software and manufactured by a computer-controlled mill.
“It’s the best-thing-that-can-happen-in-education kind of story,” Ahmad’s adviser Richard Platt said. “This is a very high level skill these kids are learning.”
Ahmad designed his vehicle by hand last year, and took third place in the same competition.
Using countless hours of research on the world’s fastest racecars and other information, Ahmad developed a few basic car models to use for this year’s competition.
With a little prodding, Platt convinced Ahmad to use a 3-D modeling program that would allow him to test his vehicle virtually rather than designing and building it to test it.
Once he’d found his fastest design, Ahmad began constructing his vehicle with the help of several local businesses, including oSun Hydraulics Corp., and Ragin Reproductions, among others.
And now with a national title under his belt, Ahmad said his current dream is to work on a Formula 1 racing team.
Ahmad will start at the University of South Florida in August and plans to major in mechanical engineering.
Contact Pam McTeer at email@example.com.
How does a dragster work?
The dragster models in TSA’s competition are designed to ride along a fishing line, which helps keep the cars from flying off the 65-foot track. A CO2 cartridge is attached to the back of each vehicle just before race time. Cars race two-by-two in a double elimination-style competition. Once cars are lined up on the starting line, a machine pokes holes in the CO2 cartridges simultaneously, sending the cars speeding off toward the finish line.
Upcoming Lakewood Ranch High School senior Brennon Hocker, 17, placed third in the national dragster competition.