Conference Call Minutes, 5/22/08

I noticed things are awfully quiet on the message boards these days. However, your fearless leaders have been going full speed ahead on getting us recognized as an official Alumni Interest Group. We have a lot to do this summer! Committee MFICs, get ready.

Please read on and comment/volunteer where you can.

We had a conference call today to clear up some questions with Alumni Relations. On the call were Sarah McMullen, Carsen Kline, Abby Sullivan, Dani Barnard, and Chris Stengel.


An account has been set up through Annual Giving for all donations to the BAA. Other methods of accepting donations will be in place eventually, but right now you can go to, designate the donation as “Other” and under “Comments” write “Buggy Alumni Association.”

All donations will be ours to keep. There will be no overhead to the University or “dues” to Alumni Relations for their support. Sarah will assist us in making payments for our programs and clear up any matters of spending restrictions.

On top of operating costs, the money raised will help us be a foundation able to support student programs, buggy team startups and others. We will try to tie in strongly with Sweepstakes to make funding available for improvements to to freerolls and races, e.g., more scoreboards, big screens, timing devices.

We’ve put out the idea of having tiered giving levels with incentives to go with them. Repeating monthly gifts might be a possibility, too.


Contact lists and Web integration:

Tim Seidel in Alumni Relations is the gatekeeper of contact lists and website info. We will have to review his lists and compare them to what we know already, and fill in blanks where we can. There is already a large base of registered users on their site, and we would like to tap into that resource and share that information. It would take away a lot of the headache of creating all new contact lists and keeping it updated.

For anyone who isn’t registered with Alumni Relations, we could have our own subset of contacts. This would be useful for city neighbors, keeping with our non-exclusive take on membership.

Abby is going to be talking to Tim initially to get the ball rolling with him. Actual contacts, who have been tagged as buggy people, can either be given to me as a big paper list or mailing labels, or they can be emailed via Alumni Relations whenever we want to get a mass mailing out. We cover postage at a bulk rate.

Programming and Advertising

The things looming largest on our radar are Donations, Website, Sweepstakes interfacing, and Homecoming. In order to get the word about our kick-off event, we’ll need some funds. To get the funds, we’ll need to start spreading the word, starting here, and continuing with the website. We’d like to work with Sweepstakes potentially in an advisory position, and we’d like to offer them something as early as this fall, whether it’s timing or video of freerolls, or something else that would help them out.

The plan is to have a kick-off event for the Buggy Alumni Association at Homecoming. We’ll have a captive audience at the History of Buggy presentation, so we’ll target that afternoon to have the meet-and-greet wine-and-cheese social. Lots of memorabilia, pictures, handouts, stickers, tshirts, etc., will give us a big start and hopefully build our community in a big way.

We’d like to put out an ad in an upcoming alumni publication; more on that later.

Discuss, volunteer, donate.

22 thoughts on “Conference Call Minutes, 5/22/08”

  • I think I will be out there for homecoming. I’m hoping to make it a buggy collection time for me. Perhaps I may have a display, although I’m not sure which buggy. I know that I can pick up Vengeance (1990) but am unsure of its condition for display. I don’t want to commit to anything, but perhaps an external display of a Pika buggy from the early 90s may be offered. I will have to bolt up MD for the trip.

  • Awesome, can’t wait to see’em. If we have a big room, I’d like to see lots of buggies from all orgs out there.

  • no category perfectly fits this comment, but I would think it would be great for the BAA to get a better buggy timing system in place because I think the timing chips, while better than previous systems, are still inadequate. (note: this is coming from the person who got the timing chips to buggy when I was safety chair)

    If we had a CMU-owned system we still would need someone impartial to run it on raceday, but I think it would be great to have a system that could theoretically be used the whole year and use stop/watches timing chips as a backup.

    Truly it would be great if the system would have a GPS built in so that in addition to getting whole course data (or if we had timing readers at each hill we could get intervals at freerolls/push-practice as well) we could track where each team gained/lost time relative to other teams in any given year etc. Thus if a record is set in 2009 and then a team comes close but falls short in 2010 you could have a virtual run-off and see where the 2010 team fell short etc…Even if it was just on top of a map of the course. (similar to tracking displays for the america’s cup races or tour de france etc online)

    I could even see this as an ECE project through the school in some higher level courses. Make things secure so that a team wouldn’t be able to cheat the system (pgp keys for the reader/timing cheap etc blah blah blah) and assign the timing device randomly on race day so that you don’t necessarily get the ones you had all year … if it was a project through the school then maybe the school would pick up the full cost as well…

  • The GPS system you’re describing sounds awesome, but also pretty difficult to implement.

    I found some prices online for the ChampionChip system that we currently use. Their low-end setup was around $8k, and the more expensive one was $13k. It wasn’t clear exactly what was included in that price, but I think it was only a single timing mat, so it would only take finish times, with no additional splits.

    Just for comparison, does anyone know what we pay for the Runners High folks on raceday? How cheap does a new system need to be for it to be worthwhile on cost alone?

    I looked into other off-the-shelf automated timing systems a while ago, and the one that seems the most promising is from AMB, and it’s designed for RC car racing. It looks like a similar setup, with each buggy carrying a transponder that the system reads as it passes. It would require a separate “base unit” at each timing point though, and I haven’t been able to find what they cost.

    It’s also made to immediately upload times to a website during a race, which would be nice for immediate feedback during rolls.

    Here’s their website:

  • Abby Sullivan says:

    Does anyone want to volunteer to make some calls on this? I’ll do it if nobody else wants to.

  • the amb-it website seems to be right up our alley …

    “More than 30,000 RC racers have their own PT installed in their cars, boats and buggies.”

    I would love to know what we pay Runner’s High every year. That guy pisses me off.

  • Yeah something like the products at AMB is what I was thinking and if we had enough timing points you wouldn’t need the cool, technically more difficult, GPS type of solution since you could just interpolate.

    I’ll see if I have anything regarding what Runner’s High charges to fire the starting gun and setup the mats, timer at the finish line etc.

    The specs I would be looking into would be:
    a) timer can be started from the sound of a starting pistol and for freerolls by passing over a starting point detection loop and/or some other simple automatic mechanism
    b) multiple split points for timing each hill etc
    c) ability for instant feedback/results
    d) can be connected to a clock/display at the finish line and/or multiple locations. It would be great if the clock could display splits and/or more than one time.

    Anyhow, it’ll be interesting to hear what you can find Josh, I notice on the AMB website that there is a testimonial from “Steel City Hobbies – Pittsburgh, PA USA” so there might be an easy opportunity for someone in pittsburgh to check out one of their systems…

    Also not sure if the AMB system can be tied into a visual timer or not like we have at the finish line (would be nice to have tenths of a second at the finish line…)

  • I have seen run an AMB system that did

    b) multiple split times
    c) instant results on a computer monitor, printed shortly after
    d) visible finish line clock
    e) multiple simultaneous events on the same course

    I can’t recall if the start was a gun or electronic horn. The system can certainly deal with a pushbutton to start both the clock and the horn. I haven’t found anything about a gun sensor.

    From what I’ve been able to find, the size of our course may be an issue. Everything near the start-finsh lines can be cabled together, but the ones further away either need to use more expensive cabling, CMU wireless, cell modems, or just store their results until the end of the day. It’s probably only an issue if we want live splits from the freeroll. And of course, some asshole can just turn off the remote equipment when nobody’s looking. Though anyone wanting to keep their times secret can just leave their chip out until raceday.

  • I just spoke to a salesperson at AMB. Their systems certainly aren’t cheap. Here’s what we would need.

    The RC car system won’t handle multiple split times, so we’d need to step up to the ChipX system.

    A decoder and detection loop is needed at each timing point. Those run $3,470 and $165 each, respectively.

    The software that can compute multiple split times costs $2,925.

    A transponder is required in each buggy at $250 a piece.

    The transponders are battery powered. A charging rack that can charge 20 tansponders is $544.

    We didn’t get into the cost of cabling or other accesories, and I forgot to ask about wireless capability.

    They don’t sell a starting gun interface or a timer display, but he referred me to Daktronics who can supply both.

    So, for a basic system that can handle finish times only, with 20 transponders, we’re looking at around $16,000. Each additional split time adds around $3,600. It certainly seems like a lot, but I guess it all comes down to how much we pay Runner’s High each year. If it’s $1,000, then this isn’t worth it. But if it’s $10,000, then our own system would pay for itself within a couple of years.

  • Abby Sullivan says:

    I left a voicemail and sent an email to Anne W. to figure out what Sweepstakes pays to Runner’s High and how willing they might be to pony up for this. This system would be SO much more useful overall, and it’s a one time investment, it would seem to me it makes sense to do it.

  • They have transponders at crappy $20 entry 5k’s that fatasses like me ‘run’ in. I find it hard to believe they cost $250 each.

  • I assumed the guy said ChipX, but he had a pretty bad southern accent and I think he was actually talking about TranX, made for go-kart and car racing. Those transponders look a little more substantial.

    Maybe the other type would work for us though and cut down on the transponder cost. I’ll follow up with them again and find out.

  • Hmm, it’s not clear from reading the specs what each of the more expensive transponders add, except that the model number corresponds to the maximum speed in kph they’ll work at.

    At least additional timing points can be added later, so we could get the minimum system now and add a new point every year or so.

    In the unlikely event that the $3k software cost makes the difference between affording it or not, I’d volunteer to write buggy specific software to do everything we want. It’s not a stretch from what I do at work, but there are plenty of reasons why this isn’t the ideal solution. They will release the necessary specs for the RC system, unclear about the ChipX.

  • I sent a followup email asking if the ChipX system would work, and if there is any loss in accuracy with that system.

    I also asked about wirelessly networking the different decoders, to simplify setup at rolls, and the cost of cabling if wireless isn’t an option.

    I’ll keep you all informed when I find out more.

  • If a system of this price is still regarded as worth pursuing someone else should look into an alternative to AMB, so we can compare prices and features.

    Options are:

    *ChampionChip – I think this is what Runner’s High uses
    *Ipico Sports
    *Winning Time
    *RFID Race Timing Systems – only accurate to 0.1sec, so not a good option

  • All of these have the mats, so not good for the freeroll, unless we can modify the mats for our purposes.

    The photocell systems have the potential to be cheaper, but you have to deal with all the false triggers of people walking between them..
    The Chronosplit system seems to solve this by putting a recorder in the buggy so you know which one that buggy was responsible for. And as a bonus, each team’s split times are private to that team. You still have to keep people off the finish line, though. Is that too much of an issue ?

    I’m travelling the next couple of days, but ‘ll make some calls when I get back.

  • Josh,

    You are correct, Runner’s High uses the “ChampionChip” system.

    I haven’t found what we pay Runner’s High yet, but have also inquired with a few minds that may know/remember.

  • I’m waiting to hear back from ChampionChip.

    I spent my 6 hours stuck in the airport reading manuals for the Tag & ALGE systems. The cheapest to do just the start &finish is around $5000, each additional split around $1200. And the simple clock display is another $3000. To some extent, one can mix & match between them and at the AMB systems.
    And Radio Club already owns equipment that handles our biggest wireless n eeds, though there are issues with that.

  • A former sweepstakes chair believes it was in the $1,000 ballpark each year for Runner’s High…so that yearly spend is what we should calculate any sort of return on investment against. Again, we’d still likely need to hire someone who is unaffiliated each year to run the system for raceday so we may not save much $, but we’d get the benefit of times throughout the year plus hill times that most of us (aka all teams not named Pika) don’t currently get except when we time off of tapes etc.

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