Nearly as old as the radio club itself, Buggy is a Carnegie Mellon tradition dating back to 1920, and there is nothing else quite like it in the world. Simply put, Buggy (or Sweepstakes, as it's officially known) is an engineering and athletic contest between student organizations, bordering between a relay race and a soap box derby. The basic idea is for each organization to build streamlined, non-powered, single-occupant vehicles which are then raced around a hilly course through Schenley Park, which borders the university campus.
These organizations spend all year designing, building, and testing their buggies. Weekly practice runs are held throughout the fall and spring semesters so that the buggies and their drivers can pass all the necessary safety qualifications for Race Day, which occurs during the university's Spring Carnival.
How does amateur radio fit in with all of this? During practice runs (commonly called "freeroll practices") as well as on Race Day itself, we station volunteers from the radio club around the course to provide communication between race officials, other volunteers, and emergency personnel when necessary. We make it possible for race officials to know when the course is clear and safe for buggies to roll, and to track buggies as they travel around the course at speeds approaching 35 MPH.
The W3VC Buggy Safety Net takes place whenever freeroll practices occur, and on Race Day. In fact, official Buggy rules state that rolls cannot take place without sufficient radio coverage around the course. Practices are scheduled every Saturday and Sunday, usually from early October through Thanksgiving, then again from late February through April. In order to close the roads with minimal disruption, freeroll practices occur early in the morning, and radio club volunteers must arrive before dawn to take up positions around the course. We're usually done by 9 AM. Unlike some events which happen only once or twice a year, Buggy is an ongoing event, so you can determine your commitment level on a weekly basis.
To volunteer, send us an email or attend one of our monthly club meetings. Also take a look at our Buggy Handbook, which will give you a good idea of how amateur radio nets work, and more specifically how ours is run.
The Buggy Safety Net is one of the radio club's most important and most visible activities on campus, and it really is a lot of fun! We hope you'll join us. The video you see here was produced by members of cmuTV and shows you what a typical Buggy season looks like from the perspective of the people who actually do all of the hard work. (We just get to watch and enjoy!)