Female engineering students ready to ‘beat the boys’ at Red Bull Soapbox race

Four female engineering students have said they are ready to “beat the boys” while being “pink and pretty” at the Red Bull Soapbox race to prove they have “beauty, brains and brawn”.

Keya Patel, 23, Isra Shaikh, 22, Belle Singleton, 19, and Meg Thurgood, 22, are competing at the Red Bull Soapbox Race, with the name The 12%, for the first time this year.

The Loughborough University students decided to apply to compete in the race because they wanted to represent the women and “show the fans what (they’re) made of”.

Group standing together
(from left to right) Isra Shaikh, Meg Thurgood, Keya Patel and Belle Singleton (Eleanor Fleming/PA)

The Red Bull Soapbox Race challenges teams to prototype and create the wackiest homemade soapboxes – and the group’s design, called Peaches Peaches Peaches, is inspired by racing video game series Mario Kart.

With individual costumes designed to represent characters Mario, Toad, Bowser, and Princess Peach, the four women hope to “have fun” and stay “intact” on the course at Alexandra Palace.

Ms Patel, who will be driving the team’s soapbox as Princess Peach and is a product design engineering final year student, told the PA news agency: “We’re just hoping to have some fun, not crash too much so that it stays intact, and I stay intact.

“Just to have a good time, really, and to show the fans what we’re made of.”

Building with grass in front of it
The event is being held at Alexandra Palace (Eleanor Fleming/PA)

Ms Shaikh, an engineering management final year student, and Ms Singleton, an aeronautical engineering first year student, both added: “(We want) to show the girls that you can have beauty, brains and brawn.”

Red Bull has held more than 100 soapbox races around the world in countries including Australia and the US, since the first one in Brussels in 2000.

The UK last hosted the event in 2022, when 20,000 spectators were treated to whacky soapbox designs and this year, 60 amateur teams will race down the course at Alexandra Palace.

Each team has 20 seconds to impress the judges with crowd-pleasing antics before taking to the specially built track and The 12% team are hoping to navigate the course in style.

After being accepted for Red Bull’s Young Constructor’s Grant, where they had access to tools and materials to construct their Soapbox masterpiece, the four women built their soapbox in just three days with some of them working on their dissertation at the same time.

Using materials such as metal, wire, and polycotton, they wanted to showcase their engineering skills while making the soapbox “pretty”, creating a shape that resembles Princess Peach’s dress.

Ms Shaikh said: “What screams prettier than a princess?”

Ms Thurgood, a product design engineering final year student, added: “We wanted it to look like a dress, not a structure.”

With their combined engineering skills and enthusiasm, the four women are feeling confident ahead of today’s race and are hoping to achieve a podium finish.

Ms Patel said: “We just wanted to be a group of women engineers, showing that we can beat the boys and we can still make something cute and fun and pink and pretty.”