Ethan Sharkey, Student in Computer Applications and Software Engineering on Go Karting

What I love the most about Go Karting is the speed, the adrenaline, and the feeling of going so fast. With my go kart, it is possible to reach speeds of up to 120 kph, but the highest I’ve gotten up to is 90 kph. There is just nothing else that I’ve come across that will give me that sensational feeling. Once you put on that helmet and head out to the track, it is as if the whole world stops and you are flying around the track; it’s just you and the go kart.

My name is Ethan Sharkey, I am 20 years old, and I am from Clogherhead, a small village which is about 15 minutes away from Drogheda. I am just about to begin my final year in DCU studying Computer Applications and Software Engineering. I have been living in student accommodation in Dublin for the past three years I have been at college.

I chose my college course because I always had a fascination with technology, more so the hardware side of things. I was curious as to how all the physical parts of a computer or a PlayStation or Xbox came together to display something on the screen. One of my earliest memories of having the original PlayStation isn’t actually playing it; it was taking it apart to see how the inside of it worked. I can remember getting in so much trouble for it, but I managed to put it all back together and it still worked – I was four or five at the time. In fifth year, I got around to getting parts to build my first desktop computer. It was fascinating to put all these various parts together to plug it into a monitor and, boom, I have a computer. After I figured out as much as I could at the time about the hardware side of a computer, I started to wonder about the software side of a computer. I came to that realisation about a week or two before meeting with my guidance counsellor in school about college. Before this realisation, I never really intended to go to college. As soon as my guidance counsellor read out the description of Computer Applications in DCU, I knew immediately that’s where I wanted to go. I have not looked back since and have loved every moment I have spent in DCU, no matter how difficult the course got over the previous three years.

Outside of college classes, I love Go Karting. I first became interested in go karting when I was ten or eleven years old, and I convinced my Nanny and Grandad to bring me to Whiteriver Park. I can remember I had the whole track to myself in the junior rental kart and it was raining. I instantly fell in love with it; there was no other feeling to it. Still to this day, racing in the rain is my favourite time to race. Ever since then, I was hooked and went karting every couple of weekends.

One day, I remember watching a six/seven-year-old going out in a go kart that you could pick up in one hand (it was that small) and he was flying. He was easily going way faster than what we were in the rental karts. It was crazy; I can still remember my knees shaking every time he drove by my Dad and me. I was twelve at the time and I just could not get over how fast this tiny kid was going. I finally got to see a non-rental go kart, and I knew I wanted to do that too. I had to wait a couple of years, but after my Junior Cert, I finally got the chance to get my own go kart.

Before buying it, I was allowed a test drive of the go kart to make sure I would like it because they are quite expensive. They are nothing compared to rental karts; there is no protection in them compared to rental karts. I can remember sitting down in it and starting it. The sheer noise of it was deafening at the time. I got to go out to the track, and that feeling I got when I first drove a go kart came back to me. It felt as if the whole world stood still and I was just flying around this track. I knew I wanted the go-kart as soon as I put my foot down. One thing that will always stick out in my mind that day is that I couldn’t believe I had to use the brake pedal. I also remember my dad’s face when I was in the go kart – it was like he saw a ghost; he was petrified of the speed of the go kart. And since that day, the rest is history – I’ve been racing ever since with my Dad and Grandad.

I currently race in the Rotax 165 class. It is one of the most competitive classes when it comes to go karting. There is a lot of money involved in karting, so this is one of the classes where people would spend the most money because it is with Motorsport Ireland – if you win, you have the opportunity to come out with sponsors and other prizes. I’ve always raced in this class because of the age I started karting at. I am competitive, but wouldn’t be on the same level as a good driver with all new equipment. Saying that, you have no idea how satisfying it is to beat a driver with all the new bells and whistles.

In regards to college and DCU Karting, I take part in Intervarsities, which is when many colleges form a team of drivers and we just compete against each other in rental karts in various tracks across Ireland.

My biggest inspirations when it comes to Go-Karting is my Dad and Grandad. Without the two of them, there isn’t a chance in a million years I would be doing what I’m doing. It was always the three of us – we joked that I was the driver, my Grandad was the engineer, and my dad was the sponsor. I know that they were terrified every time I got in the go kart, but they still let me and always helped with any problems I had with the go kart; I owe everything to do with go Karting to them two. Unfortunately, at the end of 2019, our “Engineer” passed away, so we have been a man short ever since, and it really has not been the same. However, it wouldn’t feel right if I stopped because of his passing. I still race because my Dad and Grandad are both inspirations for me, and I want to do my Grandad proud and still do something that we both loved to do together.

When I joined DCU in first year, one of the first societies I joined was the DCU Karting society. They always have an event at the start of the academic year for first years, and they also try to gather a team for intervarsities. At this event, I beat the team captain of the DCU Karting team at the time. From there, I was asked to join the intervarsity team and I was then voted by members of the society as First Year Rep for DCU Karting.

From then on, I ended up being the highest place DCU driver in intervarsities that year and always did very well at DCU held events. At the AGM at the end of the academic year, the same vote took place and members voted me in as Chairperson of the Karting Society. I was also made team captain of the intervarsity team and essentially became a new scout for new drivers for intervarsities for the next academic year.

I had many responsibilities during my time as Chairperson. Although I had a Secretary and a Treasurer in the committee to help with responsibilities, I also took up these positions if they needed help – I had to ensure we had the money for trips, organise trips, book tracks for the trips, and ensure every student made it to the track successfully and made it back from the trip all in one piece. None of it would’ve been possible without the rest of my committee at the time. I didn’t want to be Chairperson two years in a row, as I wanted to give somebody else a go at being the Chairperson. However, I kept the responsibility of Team Captain for intervarsities for third year.

I have had many great experiences with my Go Karting, but nothing will ever replace the experience of being in a go kart for the first time. After that, it has to be the first time I finished fourth in a race. It wasn’t long since I started karting, and to finish that high up was just sensational. I was over the moon; it’s just a shame I haven’t done better since. I have done better in intervarsities; I have a few second places and first places. The final intervarsity race I took part in, I finished first overall – it was a week before my Grandad passed, so it was great to be able to share that with him, even if it wasn’t a win in my go kart. That is definitely up there with one of the best experiences I’ve had.

A future goal that I hope to one day hit is to win a race in the Rotax 165 class. After that, I would like to race in Motorsport Ireland to compete for those prizes that are available if you win. At the moment, I currently race with a local club known as Tullyallen Kart Club. They are the closest you can get to racing in Motorsport Ireland without racing in it, as the same people compete in both.

One of the main similarities between Go Karting and my course at DCU is the need to understand how things work. For example, you can’t exactly fix a bug without understanding what the code does. It’s the same with a go kart. If you realise you are slower than everybody on a straight, you have to know what to change on the go kart to increase your top speed. It’s all about understanding.

I definitely think Go Karting will be a benefit to my technological career. Between building my Computer and being able to proceed with my curiosity of how things work with my go kart, I might not have had any technological goals at all. It’s crazy to know that the decision that affected my future massively was made because I built a computer, and disassembled and assembled a go kart every week. Karting has also helped me massively to deal with any stress caused by college, because it is so peaceful to work on the go kart for a couple of hours or go and do a few laps; you just forget everything and put your head down. It also lets me release any frustration while working on college work. Karting has also helped me realise that you don’t need the best tools to succeed. If you put in enough hard work and have the skills to succeed, you can and will succeed.

My advice to anyone interested in Go Karting is to simply go for it. Nothing will give you the same feeling as karting does; it is like being in a completely different world when you first get involved in it. You also get to meet so many great people – everybody involved is always lovely and always willing to help you out if you’re stuck for anything. You also get to witness so many great little drivers that are just amazing to watch. It’s crazy to see how much talent they have at such a young age. You don’t need much to enter, which is great; you can go spending a lot of money to have the best, but it really isn’t needed if you’re just starting out or for doing it for fun. Motorsport in general is just amazing and I can never recommend it enough when it comes up in conversation. Karting is so much fun and it is a brilliant day out with family and friends.

I know from experience that when I tell people I do computer science, they expect something from a cartoon: I’m a slob, unhealthy, and just stare at a computer screen all day every day. I find it fantastic that Otia Magazine is showing that computer scientists are so much more than that. It is great to have a hobby outside of any tech-related role because you need some time to wind down from it all. No matter where you go, tech surrounds you, so it’s important to have something to do that takes you away from all these. It gives you some time to wind down and properly relax with no distractions. It helps so much both mentally and physically, so I like to think there is always more to somebody than just tech.

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