By Jesus Figueroa
East Los Angeles College Red Rock Rovers is one of the few hispanic teams, and the only community college team, competing at the Red Bull Flugtag on Sept. 21.
The team is hard at work finalizing their design for a human-powered aircraft to enter in the competition in Long Beach.
The Flugtag is a human-powered flying craft competition, which for the first time will simultaneously be held in Washington D.C., Miami, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth and Long Beach.
The Red Rock Rover team is led by current ELAC engineering student Carlos Garcia.
“We entered the Red Bull Flugtag as a way of testing the skills we’ve acquired at East Los Angeles College,” Garcia said. “All the members have been committed to their education so we never got a chance to participate in extracurricular activities. This was meant to be that activity for us,” he said.
The team consists of former ELAC engineering students who are transferring to four-year universities. Team leader Carlos Garcia is transferring to California State University, Los Angeles as well as taking classes at ELAC. Team pilot Gabriel Garibay is transferring to the University of Southern California. Crew members Manuel Garcia, Alejandro Ponce and Alfonso Perez will be attending California State University, Pomona this fall.
The team has been hard at work this summer, fundraising, designing and building their craft before they continue their education at their four-year universities.
“The craft was inspired by the Mars rovers and the men and women that make space travel possible,” Carlos Garcia said.
The rules state that the craft must weigh a maximum 400 pounds with the pilot on board with a limited wingspan of less than 28 feet and height if 10 feet.
“The lighter, the better,” said Manuel Garcia. “That’s what every group is aiming for. Not every group intends to fly, many of them just go there to have some fun. But us we want to break the record this year.”
The support has shown up from many places. Fundraisers, that included a small concert to ELAC’s Engineering Department and the 2013 X-Games Brasil Silver medal winner Coco Zurita.
“The entire ELAC Engineering Department has been supporting us, in particular Brian Vasquez and Kamyar Kashayar,” Carlos Garcia said.
The unexpected support of Zurita brought more exposure to the group.
“Coco reached out to us via Red Bull. He was excited about the event and wanted to lend his support to a group. Naturally he decided to rally around us because we’re one of the only Latino team’s in the competition,” Carlos Garcia said.
“I identify with the Hispanic community as I am from Chile and have been living here (the United States) for a long time. Also I think is great to support each other in a positive way,” Zurita said.
From now, until the day of competition, the Red Rock Rovers will work at their headquarters in South Gate awaiting to show off their creation.
“Dedication and commitment to the project, that’s what’s going to help us succeed the day of competition Sept. 21,” Manuel Garcia said.