Skip to Content

Integrating My Passions - How building a kart for the EV Grand Prix helped me integrate my love for motor engineering and business

Mic Ricelli


My college adventure began when my parents and I toured the Purdue campus. I wanted to live somewhere new, different from my home state of Michigan, and I was ready to pursue my passions. Purdue is one of the best engineering schools in the nation, which sold me, and the safest in the Big Ten, which was reassuring for my parents.

While they toured the campus with me, they liked how compact and well-organized it was. They noticed that it was well lit at night; I noticed the brand-new buildings, the embrace of technology, and what would figure very soon into my college experience: the go-kart track.

Liam White (back left) and I push our driver Athreya Ramanan to the starting line for practice day.

I chose Integrated Business and Engineering as my major because every IBE student gets to work on many different kinds of projects. When I was signing up for classes, I saw the VIP (vertically integrated project) credit for autonomous motorsports. Since I worked on my dad’s old Corvette with him – doing little fixups just to keep it running – and I had a job working with trucks in high school, I thought it would be fun. Then I received an email about an EV go-kart project. I didn’t know anything about go-karts or electric vehicles, but it sounded interesting. Since it was only one credit, I thought I could fit it into my schedule. I signed up immediately and was super thrilled to be put on the team.

We spent most of the semester getting the workshop in the basement of Krannert Building approved. From there, we had to make sure we met all the safety guidelines for that and try to reach out to companies that would maybe sponsor us in the future. We had to get approvals from the Purdue Fire Department to build the kart down there, and we had to get our tools and the kart kit from TopKart.

We bonded as a team, and I couldn’t have asked for a better one. I mean, we didn’t know anything about each other except that we shared a big interest in this and loved working on the kart. We worked well together. Athreya, our driver and the unofficial team captain, has experience with racing cars and karts. The rest of us don’t have any experience, so we are more the building team, maybe like the pit crew, giving him the most support we can. Obviously, he was going to be our driver, he’d be the one to handle it best, but that said, we all played big roles and split the work evenly. Some of us worked on the battery, some on the tires, and some—like me—on the wiring.  As a brand-new class for me, it was a learning experience for sure. In high school when COVID hit, I was all online and doing CAD courses, which I was pretty good at. I haven’t been able to do that for the kart so far, but I hope to in the future. What I loved was how hands-on it was.

I am standing in front of a picture featuring me and Ryan Lampe working on the EV Go-kart in the Krannert building.

Once we started building the kart, it went fast. The first day we took it out on track, the battery went out mid-test drive. The whole battery system shut down, so we had to take it off the track and back to the workshop. We had only a few days to redo all the wiring. We tested it, trying to find where the problem came from and worked from there.

The greatest success came when we put the kart on the track and completed those laps. Our goal was just to finish the EV Grand Prix, though I hoped we could get to the podium, which would have been awesome. But next year the course will be two credit hours and we’re going to bring in more karts for the IBE program. It’s going to be a cool class, and I’m already signed up for it. Having another team and helping them while making modifications on our kart will be huge for IBE. I think it’ll get this new major’s name out there. If I’d been touring like I did in high school and found out about these teams down in Krannert Building, I’d be sold.

I think that IBE will affect my future career in many ways. I’ve found the mix of business and engineering makes the IBE major versatile and know it will help me get a great job, but I also enjoy the challenge of taking accelerated business and engineering courses. I believe that by having this experience when looking for a future career, firms will be happy to see that I am able to take my knowledge from IBE and apply it to solve their problems.

Headshot of Mic Ricelli

Mic Ricelli, from Birmingham, Michigan, is a sophomore majoring in Integrated Business and Engineering, where he not only participated with the EV Go-kart team, but also worked on a project for Caterpillar creating a plan to overcome power outages and helping the company solve issues with their own products, evaluating cost, efficiency, energy output, and environmental impact. He spent his summer working at A&R Sealcoating on the residential crew and is a member of Delta Tau Delta. He plans to continue with the EV Go-kart VIP team.

Check out more stories from our business students!

Read More

Visit us on campus or virtually!