Day 4- Broken Battery Proves to be a Hurdle

During the Start of Day charge, the University of Michigan sees on-and-off clouds to the East. Eventually, they clear up. Aurum didn’t get the best charge, but it got something, and Strategy’s weather models predict sun the entire day.

Aurum drives at about 45 miles per hour for around three hours before pulling in at 11:30 AM to the End of Stage Two location at Republic High School in Republic, Missouri.

The weather models had predicted accurately; the sun beats down on the Solar Car Team and the temperature hovers at around 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

But the team can’t take advantage of it.

When Michigan tries to charge Aurum during its allotted 15 minutes, something goes wrong. The first minute goes smoothly: Michigan manages to empty the car of its driver, point the array towards the sun, and change the battery pack configuration, readying Aurum for charge. But once Aurum begins charging, the race electrical engineers notice that despite the sunny conditions, only about 20 Watts of power come through the array, a far cry from the typical 1000 Watts that they had expected. Effectively, the car cannot charge.

The first thing that comes to mind: is there a problem with the Maximum Power Point Trackers? Maximum Power Point Trackers (MPPTs) are responsible for maximizing the array’s production of charging power by maximizing the power output of the solar cells. Using a transformer, MPPTs also match the output voltage from the array to the required input voltage of the battery.

The Electrical team decides to turn off the solar array in order to identify the charging problem’s source. When the array shuts off, something unexpected follows suit: the entire car. “This instantly confused everyone and made our problems seem much worse,” Race Electrical Engineer Lucas Rudd explains. “This is not the normal case. The car can support its own power through the battery alone.”

The electrical engineers put their heads together and conclude that since the car was not supporting itself on battery power, the battery was most likely the issue, not the MPPTs.

Michigan lets officials know about its battery problems and asks if it can work to fix the battery now. But the University of Michigan cannot. In accordance to race regulations, after its 15 minutes are up, Michigan must impound the faulty battery by locking it into a box; this rule prevents any team from cheating by charging their battery more than the competition. Only when the End of Day charge begins at 6:00 PM can the University of Michigan again work on the battery.

Michigan forfeits its 15 minute charge and instead focuses its full attention on trying to diagnose in this small amount of time, scrambling to test as much as possible in order to gain a better understanding of the problem. All of the team’s electrical engineers gather around the car with laptops, trying to piece together an idea of what is going on, and moving fast, trying to gather data while they still have the battery to work with.

The 15 minutes run out. Now, a new clock starts: the team has five hours to figure out what to dowithout touching the battery.

The Electrical team joins Head Strategist Alan Li in the Chase vehicle to assess telemetry data in an attempt to pinpoint the origin of the problem. They bounce ideas off of one another and come up with two viable explanations: 1) there is a problem with one of the relays, which open and close circuits, or 2) there is a problem with a fuse. Michigan’s relays are reliable, durable; Electrical concludes that they are not the problem, and that one of the fuses in the battery blew. The race battery has three fuses, one low-voltage, two high. Unfortunately, Electrical is unable to use the telemetry data to divine what caused the faulty fuse to break or even to discern which fuse was the broken one.

Looking at the time intervals between the actions taken immediately prior to the problem’s inception, the electrical engineers manage to narrow it down to the two high-voltage fuses. But they don’t know which fuse out of these two is broken.

Luckily, Michigan comes prepared; the team brought a second, nearly identical battery pack for testing purposes. Electrical fiddles with different parts of this spare battery to try and recreate the conditions that arose on the race battery pack. One at a time, Electrical removes the fuses, testing to see if one or the other results in a replication of the race pack’s behavior. Removing the positive high-voltage fuse results in the behavior most similar to that of the race pack.

Now that the Electrical team has identified the likely root of the charging problem, it methodically choreographs a procedure to replace the fuse as swiftly and seamlessly as possible, dividing up and delegating specific tasks to specific people and rehearsing the repair procedure on the spare battery. Lucas has worked most closely with the race battery in the past, so the team decides he will be the one to actually perform the repair, while others assist him with diagnosis, tool accessibility, and more.

Stakes are high. “It’s the kind of thing where if you do it wrong, it’s the end of the race,” Business Director Sarah Zoellick notes. “On top of that, you’re dealing with what is basically a small bomb.”  It’s true; if the team messes up badly, the battery will likely catch fire, and could explode. It has the explosive power of roughly twenty hand grenades.

While Electrical prepares and plans for 6:00 PM, the Strategy team reckons with the implications of different possible outcomes. The question is whether the Electrical team can get the battery fixed before the End of Day charge time runs out, and how its performance will impact the race going forward. Alan runs simulations assessing three situations. Situation One: Electrical manages to fix the battery very quickly and Aurum gets to charge for almost the full two hours of End of Day chargeEnd of Day charge is fine and the following Start of Day charge is fine. Situation Two: Electrical doesn’t manage to fix the battery quickly enough for Aurum to take advantage of End of Day charge, but fixes it in time for Start of Day charge the following morningEnd of Day charge is compromised, but Start of Day charge is fine. Situation Three: Electrical doesn’t manage to fix the battery until the end of Start of Day chargeEnd of Day charge is compromised, Start of Day charge is compromised.

In the half-hour leading up to the End of Day charge, the remainder of the team readies itself for pointing the array in the event of the best case scenarioAlan’s Situation One. The electrical engineers and driver/Engineering Director Clayton Dailey gather replacement fuses and relays. They lay out toolboxes filled with Vector toolsmulti-meters and wrenches and electrical tape and anything else that could come in handy. They call over an official to oversee the repair. They pull up the necessary specifications and schematics, don safety glasses and surgical gloves, and get into their individual designated positions. Michigan is ready.

 

Open toolboxes and spare components surround the University of Michigan’s Electrical team as it prepares to perform the repair.

Open toolboxes and spare components surround the University of Michigan’s Electrical team as it prepares to perform the repair.

The clock strikes 6:00 PM. An official’s voice: “Three. Two. One. De-impound!” It begins. The electrical engineers open the lock box and take out the race battery. Several gloved hands descend upon iteveryone knows their job. The Electrical team tests the positive high-voltage fuse for continuity and finds none; the circuit is broken, and this is the blown fuse. They were right. Lucas calls for tools and others hand tools to him “It looked like a surgical operation from TV,” Crew Chief Perry Benson describes. Everyone assisting with the repair is calm, collected, focused. Electrical un-tapes the two ends of the blown fuse, unbolts it from the wires on either side, and removes it. Electrical then replaces it with a new fuse, reconnects everything inside of the battery, tapes everything, seals it all up, closes the battery, tries turning it on to check that the repair is successful(it is)and then, plugs the battery back into the car. The car powers up, ready for charge. Done. Eleven minutes and forty-five seconds.

 

The University of Michigan’s Electrical team performs the repair on the faulty battery.

The University of Michigan’s Electrical team performs the repair on the faulty battery.

Once Aurum is charging, the team relaxes a little. “Every electrical engineer took a moment to breathe again,” Lucas describes. “We were able to relax again now that the car was once again competitive.” Alan’s Situation Onethe best case scenariohad played out, and better than anyone could have hoped; Aurum gets a solid hour and fifty minutes of charge.

This, Clayton declares, “was one of the quickest and smoothest repairs we have ever made to the car.” Generally, performing electrical repairs on the car is a long, convoluted process. “The officials were all pretty impressed with us,” Alan adds. “We were all pretty impressed with ourselves.”

Lucas expands on the gravity of the situation: “It was the single most stressful event of race crew, and quite possibly of my entire life. But it was also one of the greatest feats of problem-solving I have ever been a part of.” Lucas notes that Michigan had just reached the halfway point. “We were racing a great car with a great team supporting it, and everything we worked towards all year long was almost lost… There was a very real chance of us not finishing the race. Everyone worked really hard to make sure that wouldn’t happen.”

Once again, when faced with extraordinary circumstances, the University of Michigan Solar Car Team proves it has the diligence, the training, and the level-headedness to persevere and come stronger out the other side.

Day 3- Storm-dodging

Radar is a meteorology tool that relays information about storms, pressure systems, and more. It shows a map overlaid with bright and telling colors; dark green signals light rain, yellow moderate rain, and red heavy rain.

At 6:30 AM, when Head Strategist Alan Li and Weatherman Austin McDowell check their radar, they see a red splotchthere’s a serious storm right on top of the team’s locationand a California-sized mass of clouds is fast approaching.

As members of the General Crew, they wonder what the Array Crew, which is responsible for charging Aurum via solar array, are thinking given the weather conditions.

The race crew wakes up in waves. First to wake up is the Array Crew at 6:00 AM, a group of six people who ready Aurum for Start of Day charge at seven. They are responsible for “pointing”positioning the array at the sun in order to maximize energy intake. Second is the General Crew at 6:30 AM, the members of the race crew who are neither drivers nor Array Crew members. They help Array while pointing. At 7:00 AM, the last group awakens: the drivers.

This morning, General and Array interact in the rain, looking at the storms and assessing the merits and demerits of charging. They hear thunder. A message pops up on the team’s communications app regarding the possibility of charging this morning: “Are we pointing?”

Crew Chief Perry Benson has to decide whether or not the team will charge Aurum. As Crew Chief, he is responsible for the safety of the car and crew. The general consensus is that Aurum doesn’t need to charge. It would be an unnecessary risk. To charge in such weather would mean working with and exposing circuitry to rain. The team would also run the risk of having hail or heavy winds damage the array. And when the array points instead of lying in its flat position on top of the car, it makes itself vulnerable to buffeting by strong winds. Charging also wouldn’t be worth the time spent, because last night, Aurum topped off the battery pack (charged fully) and because right now, it’s cloudy and rainy; Aurum is unlikely to gain much charge in such conditions, anyway. Perry notes that the team instead shifts its focus onto getting the car ready and as close to the start line as possible.

Aurum starts off driving at a moderately slow pace, heading into clouds and rain. The Strategy team sees more radiation in reality than they had expected, so they decide to have the solar car speed up little by little before it at last pulls into checkpoint at Ulysses S. Grant National Historical Site in St. Louis, Missouri.

When Aurum heads out again, it drives into scattered clouds and sun-chases until it becomes consistently cloudy. “Sun-chasing” is a strategy that involves driving slower in more sun in order to obtain more energy and faster in less sun in order to get out of the clouds as fast as possible, because the car gains little energy then.

As the University of Michigan drives down the eastern side of Missouri at a speed of around 45 miles per hour, approaching an abrupt turn west, the California-sized cloud mass looms closer and radiation keeps dropping.

Right before the team reaches the corner where the road turns west, Race Electrical Engineer Michael Toennies turns to show Alan the radar, and it shows something even worse than a red storma pink storm; there’s thunder and lightning in that cloud. And it’s heading straight for Aurum. They have to do something.

The team is on the edge of the storm. Having run simulations using IBM’s weather model, Strategy thinks that if Aurum increases its speed, the team can dodge this threatening storm.

When Aurum hits the turn, it speeds up to 65 miles per hour and drives west at that speed, trying to put as much distance between itself and the severe weather before the storm hits the route. While making the turn, Alan describes looking to the left and seeing nothing but clouds. Only to the right could he see “real sky,” he says. As Michigan drives on under real sky, less fortunate teams remain stuck in the storm’s grasp, which puts Michigan at a great advantage; Michigan is able to drive on without endangering Aurum and while leaving all other teams behind to struggle and slow down, piling more minutes onto their overall elapsed times while unable to get much power. It’s the ultimate strategic situation.

This image illustrates the strategic merit of the situation; the map shows the University of Michigan far ahead of all the teams unfortunate enough to get caught in the storm that it dodged.

This image illustrates the strategic merit of the situation; the map shows the University of Michigan far ahead of all the teams unfortunate enough to get caught in the storm that it dodged.

Engineering Director and Aurum driver Clayton Dailey credits the University of Michigan’s great success in the ASC to this crucial moment: “Mostly thanks to our weather models and Weather vehicle, we knew where the storm was and how fast we had to go to dodge the storm. This is the reason we were able to win by so much.”

Twenty minutes later, with the storm behind it, the team begins looking for an End of Day location to stop and charge. From the Chase vehicle, Strategy sends a range of possible locations for Weather and Scout to assess. Weather, Scout, and Media head out to scout potential locations.

Suddenly, on the radar, two more storms appear out of nowhere. The range of locations Strategy sent is covered by a torrential downpour, so Weather and Scout make the decision to go slightly backwards and find a different End of Day location.

Cell service is bad, so communication proves difficult, and Business Director Sarah Zoellick, who drives the Media vehicle, does not hear of the location change in time. She drives exactly five minutes past the new End of Day location and directly into “an out-of-nowhere,” “pitch-black” storm with harsh winds and heavily streaming rain. “It was the kind of thing where cars pull off onto the side of the highway because it’s too much,” Sarah recounts. “The visibility was bad and road conditions were unsafe even for heavy, full-sized cars. If Aurum had gone to the original location, the caravan probably would have had to pull off onto the side of the road.” The team had made a good call when choosing to change the End of Day location.

The Weather vehicle finds a location and the team pulls over onto the side of the road. It is raining lightly and the location is not optimal for charging. Team members pull out their phones, searching for better possible locations. Operations Director Jonathan (Jon) Cha and Operations Division member Jesse Velleu drive the Scout vehicle, and they head out to search again. They come across a tiny church just down the road, and the rest of the team follows.

The main caravan, the solar car, and the team’s semi take up half the road. Once in the church parking lot, Perry decides they shouldn’t stay here and should move Aurum into the trailer; this is also not a good charging location. A good charging location is very open so that there’s no potential shading of the array and so that when the sun rises or sets at a low angle, nothing blocks the trajectory of light to the array. The church lot is enclosed on three sides, with trees blocking the path of the sun. It would be fine as an End of Day location, because it is so cloudy that Aurum won’t charge much, anyway. But the team takes tomorrow’s Start of Day charge into consideration, too; there’s a chance the weather could be better tomorrow morning, and it would pay to take full advantage of it.

Scout heads out again to look for a location, driving straight into a downpour. “We couldn’t see ten feet in front of us,” Jon recalls. “We told them, ‘Aurum, do not go past this pointit’s dangerous.’” Eventually, Jon and Jesse double back and come across a highway overpass beside a cliff, where they can see a river underneath. It’s back down the race route a ways from the team’s current location, but on the opposite side of the river is a location that looks ideal: a parking lot on the water’s edge. It fits the criteria for a prime charging location, and as a bonus, sun reflection off the water would mean additional power. The pair drives around the rest of the small Missouri town of Van Buren (pop. 800), but find no better place. A big parking lot is full, so it isn’t usable. A baseball diamond is in use, and therefore also not usable. Aurum eventually settles in at the riverside location, right on the water, where it actually manages to charge because the clouds have let up a bit.

 

Array Crew sets Aurum up for charge at End of Day location in Van Buren, Missouri.

Array Crew sets Aurum up for charge at End of Day location in Van Buren, Missouri.

Throughout the entire day, weather tested the University of Michigan at every turncosting it charge, nearly delaying it like it did the other teams, hindering communication, rendering the End of Day location search more difficult than it had to beand at every turn, the team passed each test.

Thank you, Ford

For twenty-six years now, Ford and the University of Michigan Solar Car Team have shared a close relationship. With Ford’s sponsorship, we won the 2016 American Solar Challenge, contributing not only to our own legacy, but to the legacy of this storied partnership.

During the ASC, Ford provided us with four vehicles which made up a principal part of our caravanLead, Chase, Scout, and the team advisor’s car.

The caravan is important because it provides support for Aurum during the race. Lead travels 500 meters ahead of Aurum, navigating and keeping an eye out for problems ahead. Chase follows closely behind Aurum, monitoring its energy input and output and gauging what the best path forward is. Scout drives 10-15 minutes ahead, looking for potholes and filling them, marking them, moving roadkill and warning the main caravan of upcoming rough road or railroad tracksanything that might impede Aurum’s ride.

Having reliable caravan vehicles to carry out these tasks greatly benefits the team.

Another significant contribution by Ford was its granting us access to the Jacobs Wind Tunnel prior to the race.

Michigan needed to test Aurum’s aerodynamics because it added a six-inch crush zone in the form of a bump to the car’s right side. This was in compliance with ASC safety regulations for the driverthe car had previously complied with World Solar Challenge regulations, and it had to undergo modifications before racing in the ASC. Although the bump met the rules, it created a dilemma: the team was concerned as to the kind of aerodynamic obstacle the bump posed.

At the Jacobs Wind Tunnel, Michigan took full advantage of the facility, conducting several aerodynamic tests. It was able to calculate aerodynamic forces on the car by experimenting with different wind speeds and yaw angles. It gauged turbulence with the introduction of smoke to the tunnel and with the use of tell tails, strings tied to the bump.

Thanks to Ford, Michigan had the opportunity to properly diagnose and quantify this aerodynamic hit. This allowed integration of the aerodynamic setback into the team’s strategy models, which meant clearer and more accurate pictures of what should be done throughout the raceit meant more reliable context for our strategists when making decisions.

Thank you again, Ford! We’re very grateful to have you as our partner.

Day 2- End of Stage 1

Start of Day charging begins promptly at 7 am, and by the end of charge time at nine, Aurum’s battery pack is nearly full. The UM team is in a good place.

Day 2 is fairly sunny, and based on the weather models, Aurum can drive at the speed limit again. Driving at the speed limit, Aurum reaches the end of Stage 1 at 11:02 am, winning this first stage about two hours ahead of current second place team Principia.

Graph (distance traveled over time) showing the University of Michigan pulling to the End of Stage 1 location ahead of competitors.

Graph (distance traveled over time) showing the University of Michigan pulling to the End of Stage 1 location ahead of competitors.

ASC race structure consists of four stages, each punctuated by a number of checkpoints. When a solar car stops at a checkpoint, it gets forty-five minutes to charge before getting back onto the road again. At stage stops, however, the car gets fifteen minutes of charge and then must wait as other teams continue to pull in for the End of Day charge period at six pm, which ends at eight pm. After the Start of Day charge the following day, whichever team is in first overall starts the following stage first.

This year, in commemoration of the National Parks Service 2016 Centennial, ASC organizers partnered with the National Parks Service Midwest Region, and all end-of-stage and checkpoint locations were national parks or historic sites, making for a very scenic race through the heart of the nation.

Today, the University of Michigan awaits End of Day charging in George Rogers Clark National Historical Park of Vincennes, Indiana.

 

Teams point their arrays, readying for End of Day charge at George Rogers Clark National Historical Park.

Teams point their arrays, readying for End of Day charge at George Rogers Clark National Historical Park.

After winning the FSGP and thus beginning the race in pole position, Michigan has retained its lead, ensuring it will start Stage 2 first tomorrow after the Start of Day charge. The team’s solid performance thus far is encouraging, especially considering the predetermined time penalty it acquired going in.

This penalty stemmed from the fact that Aurum was originally designed for the 2015 World Solar Challenge, whose regulations differ from the American Solar Challenge. Some of the changes the team made to the car were not detrimental, like the wiring of additional signal lights. However, the bump protruding from Aurum’s right side meant a six minute penalty on every day of the race.

 

Crew members gather around Aurum, bump in prominent view.

Crew members gather around Aurum, bump in prominent view.

The team had to add this bump because ASC safety rules require a six-inch crush zone encircling the driver. The roll cage met impact requirements and Altair’s Hyperworks software confirmed driver safety in the absence of such a crush zone, but despite this, the team still had to add six inches of space to the driver’s right side.

This addition worried the team on two counts: aerodynamics and penalization.

The bump fulfilled one regulation, but broke another: the car was now too wide. Thus, before even starting the race, Michigan found itself facing a penalty of six minutes added onto every daya deficit of 48 minutes over the course of the entire race.

The bump cost the team elsewhere, too. It made the car less aerodynamic. The penalties were minutes, but a serious problem in aero could cost Michigan hours. Support from Ford allowed Michigan testing time at Jacobs Wind Tunnel prior to the race, which enabled the team to quantify the aerodynamic hit caused by the bump. This translation to tangible numbers allowed the team to incorporate this aerodynamic setback into its strategy models.

Aurum undergoes aerodynamic tests. Tell tails stick out from its side.

Aurum undergoes aerodynamic tests. Tell tails stick out from its side.

Despite a strong performance thus far, the team knows better than to relax. The race is still close and six days lie ahead. “I’m proud of the fast, clean race we’ve run so far, but the race is far from over,” Team Leader Shihaab Punia notes. “Let’s carry that momentum through the next six days.”

 

Thank you, Intel

 

The University of Michigan Solar Car Team’s Strategy Division is powered by Intel.

During the race, Strategy’s job is to figure out how fast the car should be going at any given point in time. This involves a number of inputs subject to great variabilityweather conditions, elevation changes, the position of the sun relative to the car, wind speed and direction, road conditions, shadingall factors constantly considered both at the present and into the future.

An array of Intel-powered computers and monitors allows Michigan Strategy to turn this flood of data into a set of actionable outputs.

These computers and monitors went into the Chase vehiclea sort of mobile mission control—from which team strategists were able to optimize energy consumption based on the information received from Aurum’s telemetry data. You can build a great solar car, but at the end of the day, it is what happens in the Chase vehicle during the race that determines whether you win or lose. 

Thanks to the Intel-Strategy partnership, UM Solar has been consistently able to outshine its opponents in the field.

Day 1- The Race Begins!

"Weather is a fickle thing."

That’s what Head Strategist Alan Li tells me when I ask him about the 2016 American Solar Challenge. Weather is a fickle thing, and when your race strategy hinges upon weather, you must get comfortable with the ambiguity.

The morning of Day 1, Alan runs simulations on both the WRF and IBM models, trying to gauge the weather outlook for the day and decide on a strategy.

Alan notes that since Aurum won the FSGP and is thus the first seed for the day, they could always go the speed of the second-seeded team behind them once they start. This would offer Michigan an opportunity to gauge its position relative to its opponents while assuring it will stay ahead of them, because each team leaves one minute after the team ahead of them in the FSGP-determined line-up. However, the strategy team decides this is not the optimal choice to make, and keeps it as a fallback plan.

Alan considers two possible approaches.

He can go the more aggressive routeuse more energy now and hope the weather will get betteror he can go the more conservative routedrive slower and save energy for later knowing that it will be cloudy.

Alan decides on something in between these two extremes, not wanting to burn out, but not wanting to fall behind, either.

 

"Weather is a fickle thing."

Fog hangs low over sleek solar car aerobodies and sticks to skin. Jokes fly around about what oh-so-wonderful weather this is for solar racing. No one’s too worried, though, because all teams start with a full battery pack.

As the team prepares for race start at eight, the air fills with excitement; this is the first solar race for most of the 2016 ASC race crew, and this feeling is like no other.

The team is positioned in Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Brecksville, Ohio, a place it went to about a month before on a mock race. “But then it was empty,” 2016 Business Director Sarah Zoellick explains. “This time it was full of people and other teamsit was the real deal.”

Team alumni and family members join the team at the starting line, there to support and cheer on Aurum and the people behind it.

Tradition dictates that longtime friend and sponsor to the team Chuck Hutchins run over the starting line beside the car with a University of Michigan flag in hand, but Chuck couldn’t make it this time. And so, when the clock strikes eight, longtime friend and advisor to the team Chito Garcia runs with the flag for the first time, accompanying Aurum as its maize and blue rolls past the black and white of the starting linethe race has begun!

Chito Garcia stands beside Aurum, ready with flag in hand for race start.

Chito Garcia stands beside Aurum, ready with flag in hand for race start.

"Weather is a fickle thing."

As the race progresses, the team keeps its eye on the weather.

The strategists sit in the Chase vehicle, looking at the large Intel monitor mounted to the back of the front seat. On its screen, the WRF model shows about 200 watts per meters squared less radiation than there actually is, as measured by the pyranometers provided to the team by Apogee Electronics and PP Systems. Pyranometers measure solar irradiance and solar radiation flux density, which allows the team to assess real time solar conditions. Given the 200 w/m^2 discrepancy, Alan thinks Aurum should be going faster. The decision the team faces now: will this 200 w/m^2 difference stay the whole day, or will it disappear? Alan consults his weatherman, Austin McDowell, to see if he thinks the weather will get any better, and together they decide that the bad weather is either going to persist or get even worse.

Upon deciding the 200 w/m^2 difference is here to stay, the team decides to push the set speed up to the speed limit, and Aurum arrives at the first checkpoint, the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park in Dayton, Ohio. The team charges Aurum for the designated forty-five minutes before hitting the road again, catching sight of another team as the car leaves.

Clouds no longer splotch the sky, and in accordance to what the models say, Aurum drives the speed limit for the rest of the day before settling in at six pm for its End of Day charge. Aurum gets some rest. The team gets some rest. Tomorrow, it continues.

“Day 0” - The Formula Sun Grand Prix

Race crew vaults over the track barrier in preparation for a pit stop.

Race crew vaults over the track barrier in preparation for a pit stop.

How is the suspension? The battery safety? How are the tires? Can the primary driver exit the car in under ten seconds? Are the turn signals bright enough?

Three days before the start of the racetrack qualifying stage, scrutineering opens, a strict process that involves officials checking various aspects of the car to see that it meets race and safety regulations. Race officials inspect brake efficacy, structural stability, driver vision, the solar array, mobility, and more. They set out to determine the car’s readiness for a race stretching 1,975 miles of highway—highway filled with stressful uphills, speckled with potholes, crisscrossed by train tracks, and punctuated by unpredictable weather.

Driver Andrew Toennies exits car in 4.95 seconds during scrutineering.

Driver Andrew Toennies exits car in 4.95 seconds during scrutineering.

The University of Michigan Solar Car Team passes these inspections with flying colors, finishing scrutineering first. This distinction awards Michigan the advantage of starting the qualifying race from pole position.

The three-day qualifying race for the ASC, the Formula Sun Grand Prix, or FSGP, was held at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex. In the same way that the winner of scrutineering starts qualifying in pole position, the winner of the FSGP starts the ASC in pole position. This is a huge advantage, because it means not needing to pass other teams’ entire caravans—their solar cars, lead vehicles, chase vehicles—while mid-race.

The FSGP is straightforward: over the course of three days, teams compete to complete as many laps around the track as possible.

The FSGP proves to be the first test of how teams perform in weather; the third day, it starts raining. All teams concern themselves with slickness and ensuring they have enough energy to continue. Some teams struggle, stalling when going up hills. Out of the twenty teams that undergo scrutineering and enter the FSGP, twelve succeed in qualifying. For Michigan, everything—down to pit stop turnover—runs smoothly.

Michigan wins the FSGP with 518 laps—828 miles—and the team shifts its focus to the next task: in thirty-six hours, the starting gun will go off in Brecksville, Ohio, and the ASC will begin.

The night before the race begins, strategists Alan Li, Michael Katz and Leda Daehler, meteorologists Austin McDowell and Jeffrey Cwagenberg, and Engineering Director and driver Clayton Dailey analyze the expected weather for tomorrow.

Together they set out to formulate an idea of Day 1 race circumstances in order to brainstorm a game plan.

They primarily look at two models, the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model and the IBM model, which allow them to explore all possible “what-ifs.” Alan illustrates: “What if we saw the lowest possible radiation? What if we saw the highest possible radiation?”

But the two models say different things. Meteorologists always look at many different sources, and across all the other different sources they consult, the trend persists: conflicting predictions.

Staring down the barrel of the start of the race and uncertain weather, the team heads to bed.

A Look Back: 2016 American Solar Challenge

For the sixth consecutive timeand for the ninth time overallwe won the 2016 American Solar Challenge. Despite difficult conditions, we finished a record 11 hours ahead of the second place team, and were the only team to finish on solar power alone.

The following series of posts will reflect on the race and recognize some of the sponsors that make our accomplishments possible.

2015 Unveil | Aurum

Photo by EPIK Studios

Photo by EPIK Studios

It's finally here.

It has been 642 days since the 2013 World Solar Challenge came to a close. Despite a devastating crash during the race, our team still managed to pull of a top-ten finish after spending all night repairing Generation, our team's 12th vehicle. From the day the race ended, our team has been hard at work to bring the world something better. Something faster. Something that breaks down all the records that have been set already.

We are excited to show the world what have made possible.

This morning, we unveiled our team's 13th vehicle, Aurum. With a sleek new aerobody, and top knotch electrical and mechanical systems, Aurum is the ultimate electric vehicle.

An asymmetrical catamaran body designed by the team's Aerodynamics Division is projected to be more aerodynamic than any vehicle that our team has ever produced, including three-wheel designs, and designs allowing the driver to be in a much more laid-down position. The power losses from the electrical system has been minimized through innovative design. The mechanical systems have been optimized for weight reduction and an increase in overall strength and reliability. Every aspect of our designs have gone through countless iterations to produce this icon of sustainable engineering.

Green energy is the future, and although our design is still far from the average electric vehicle, it is one step closer to becoming your daily ride. A change in the regulations for the 2015 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge requires the charging of the vehicle to not use any external stands, and our new car incorporates a charging stand into the body of the vehicle that can be adjusted for finding the optimal charging angle.

Another major change in design is more visually apparent in the car's race configuration. On the drivers side, the body of the car follows the lines of the driver's shoulder, and blends the chassis and the lower body's shape together to form the outside wall. The canopy's smooth lines are dictated in size by a carbon fiber roll cage inside that protects the driver from impact, and allows us to minimize the height from not needing additional area that a metal roll cage would take up. The main airfoil's thickness is slimmer than ever before.

The next step is to prove Aurum's capabilities at the World Solar Challenge. We have built a car, and we are building a team that will be ready to win the world. We are just over 3 months out from the start of the race, and there is still much work to be done, but we wouldn't be the University of Michigan Solar Car Team if we weren't up for the challenge. 

Stay connected with the team via Facebook, Twitter, and umsolar.com.

 

Unveil 2015 | Speakers

We are less than 12 hours out from sharing our new car with everyone, and we have quite the line-up to introduce you to Aurum.

From our Platinum Level sponsors, to our number one fan, we bring you our 2015 Unveil Speakers.

 

Patricia E. Mooradian
President
The Henry Ford

Patricia E. Mooradian began her career at The Henry Ford in 2000 as Vice President & Chief Operating Officer; becoming President in 2005. She leads the development, articulation and promotion of a clear vision and strategic plan for THF and ensures excellence in the daily operation, exhibition, program development and delivery, and maintenance for all THF venues. She raises local and national awareness and appreciation of THF as the nation’s premier history destination. In addition to positioning THF as a leading national institution, she also raises contributed funds for general operating support, programs, endowment and capital projects. Prior to joining The Henry Ford, Mooradian was Regional Marketing Director for The Taubman Company overseeing the marketing strategic plan development, and brand management of regional shopping destinations across the country.

 
 

David C. Munson, Jr.
Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering
University of Michigan


David Munson received the B.S. degree in electrical engineering from the University of Delaware and the M.S., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from Princeton University. Prior to Michigan, he was on the electrical and computer engineering faculty at the University of Illinois. Professor Munson’s research is focused on signal processing issues in imaging systems, especially synthetic aperture radar. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a past president of the IEEE Signal Processing Society, founding editor-in-chief of the IEEE Transactions on Image Processing, and co-founder of the IEEE International Conference on Image Processing.

 

Jeffrey M. Brennan
Chief Marketing Officer

Altair

As Chief Marketing Officer and Senior VP of Global Markets, Brennan has responsibility for corporate, business marketing, communications, public relations, web marketing and strategy in major market segments.
Since joining Altair in 1992, he has served a variety roles, including Program Manager for Altair’s optimization products, Director of Sales & Marketing, and VP of the HyperWorks business unit and was responsible for the creation of the OptiStruct software. His background includes specialties in biomechanics and optimization, receiving his engineering education at the University of Notre Dame, Northwestern University and the University of Michigan.

 

Chris Selwood
Event Director
Bridgestone World Solar Challenge


Bridgestone World Solar Challenge Event Director Chris Selwood is an electrical engineer by training but he is not known as one to follow a conventional path. Born in the UK he spent much of his early working life as a production manager for movies, and later in event management, travelling the world.
He fell in love with the Australian bush and in 1991 chose to call South Australia home. Since then he has managed the logistics and operations of some of Australia’s most notable outdoor, adventure events. Chris’s journey to the World Solar Challenge came about through his passion for this planet and his unflagging interest in alternative energy and sustainable transport. When he met the World Solar Challenge’s founder, Danish adventurer Hans Tholstrup, in 1990, he was hooked. He was first involved as a volunteer and by 1999 was running the event.
As the world’s largest event of its kind Chris faces many technical and logistical challenges. An ongoing challenge is to keep the playing field level giving competitors the opportunity to shine, regardless of budget and to evolve regulations to keep up with technology and encourage innovation.
His ultimate goal? That the World Solar Challenge will inspire the bright young people of the planet to create world’s first truly sustainable motor vehicle and, by so doing, make a major contribution in the quest for sustainable mobility.

 

Pete Tiernan
Creative Director
Siemens PLM Software


Pete Tiernan is the senior creative director for Siemens PLM Software. A 28-year veteran of the engineering software industry, Pete oversees reputation and brand management, global advertising and multimedia development for the PLM business unit. His team supports product, industry, regional and corporate marketing activities. Mr. Tiernan has served as the liaison between Siemens and the University of Michigan Solar Car team for two years.

 
16111034159_1aef999264_k.jpg

Chuck S. Hutchins
Long-time Supporter and Number One Fan

University of Michigan Solar Car Team

Chuck Hutchins graduated from the University of Michigan in 1957 B.C. (before computers!). 10 years after graduating he began writing assembly line language code which became the basis of MDSI, a company he co-founded in 1969. MDSI built three buildings in Ann Arbor - completely paid in cash - which are now owned by the University and are as known as the Arbor Lakes facility. These buildings served as MDSI's headquarters from 1974 to 1980. Chuck Hutchins has been with the solar car team for 25 years and is affectionately known as the team's number one fan.

 
photo by epik studios

photo by epik studios

Pavan Naik
Project Manager
University of Michigan Solar Car Team


Pavan Naik is majoring in Industrial and Operations Engineering and is the Project Manager of the University of Michigan Solar Car Team. He joined the team in 2012 because of the passion and competitiveness that fuels the team. Pavan's currently the main contact for external relations and big partners. He's raced in the 2013 World Solar Challenge, the 2014 American Solar Challenge, and the 2015 Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge and is fired up for the upcoming World Solar Challenge!

 
photo by epik studios

photo by epik studios

Arnold Kadiu
Engineering Director
University of Michigan Solar Car Team


Arnold was raised in the Metro Detroit area and showed an interest in cars and engineering from a young age. This interest drove him to pursue engineering at the University of Michigan. Arnold is now a senior in Mechanical Engineering. While in college he has participated actively on the University of Michigan Solar Car Team. He joined the team his fall semester as a freshman. In 2012 and 2013 his focus on the team was composite design, analysis and manufacturing of the 2013 Solar Car, Generation. In 2014 and 2015 his role was the Engineering Director of the team. His role was to ensure that the most competitive vehicle was designed and manufactured. He enjoys designing carbon fiber components, biking and running. He hopes to pursue a career in composite product development.

 

The University of Michigan Solar Car Team's 2015 Unveil will take place at 9:30 am on July 17th, 2015 at the Henry Ford Museum. Pre-registration required. Registration begins at 9:00 am. Watch the live stream at  http://umicheng.in/solar25.

Road to 25 - the Official Launch

In July of 1990 - the University of Michigan Solar Car Team competed in our first solar race. Since then, we've won 8 national championships, 5 top-three world podium finishes, and 1 international victory, making us the winning-est solar car team in history. In fact, the International Solarcar Federation, the governing body of the World Solar Challenge, American Solar Challenge, and other races, recently published global rankings based off of championships in 2013, 2014, and 2015. 

We're second in the world! 

Last week we announced the launch of our Road to 25 campaign - a way to celebrate the achievements of our past 25 years. Each car is highlighted and supporters can vote for their favorite team by donating. Each week we'll share exclusive footage with the winning car. 

Road to 25

This Wednesday we're going to be revealing a huge part of our car. Want a sneak peek? Solve the following puzzle and find out! Hint: You'll need the link of champions above and each team's country (or state if USA). 

  1. University of Minnesota
  2. Twente
  3. University of Michigan
  4. Team Arrow
  5. Principia

 

A World Race and 25 Years

It's becoming real. The journey to the 2015 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge officially began when the regulations were released a little over a year ago on June 5th, 2014. Since then we have worked hard- every action we took was to make a faster car and a better team, all with the ultimate goal of winning the 2015 World Solar Challenge. In that time we have also achieved two victory titles: a National Championship in the American Solar Challenge and an International Championship in the Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge. As a team we grew by learning from previous years and from our own previous mistakes. 

wscTeamsGraphic

Even though we always had that ultimate goal in mind, it's still slowly hitting us that we're on the final sprint. We've already completed the first round of documentation required to race and are in the middle of completing the second round. Yesterday, the World Solar Challenge released the full list of teams; over 45 teams from 25 countries will be competing for the world title!

We're the most successful team in North America and that's not because of luck. The University of Michigan Solar Car Team has 25 years of experience, success, and failure to build upon. I think that the fact that we can tap into this pool of expertise is one of the main reasons behind our considerable success. 

photo by epik studios

photo by epik studios

Last week, we had the opportunity to give back to a legacy of one of those years - Edina (Business), Ujjwal (Media) and I drove to Boston to present a small gift to Furqan Nazeeri, the Project Manager of the 1993 team. Ben (Mechanical) machined and painted a small scale model of Maize and Blue for the event. 

We're only 133 days away from the beginning of the World Solar Challenge. Follow the Road to 25 on Facebook and Twitter! #UMSolar25

A Busy Week and an Empty Workspace

If you were to have walked into our workspace this past week, chances are you wouldn't have seen anybody. The CAEN (computer) lab was empty, no electrical engineers were to be found in the electrical bays, and the main shop floor was uninhabited - save for our mule car.  Yet, this past week has been our busiest week of the summer so far.

Almost everyday this week, we've been sending two groups of team members out to manufacture different portions of our vehicle. Denny, Tyler, Michael, and Ian - our 2015 race electricals - spent most of their week at GM's Warren Technical Center welding a battery pack for our next vehicle. 

The battery pack is broken up into modules and cells - there's a certain number of cells in a module and a certain number of modules in a pack. To arrange the cells in a module we 3D print brackets that safely lock each cell into position. 

photo by epik studios

photo by epik studios

Our Makerbot Replicator 2Xs helped in speeding up the process of designing and printing the brackets. With the Makerbot 3D printers, we were able to test a variety of designs and better optimize the final layout of the brackets. 

photo by epik studios

photo by epik studios

photo by epik studios

photo by epik studios

Almost everyone else who wasn't welding at GM was at Roush sanding and manufacturing the molds for our next car. With all parts of the car coming together, things are getting pretty exciting in Ann Arbor! We're going to have some big news in a couple weeks that we can't wait to share. If you're curious what the name of Michigan's next solar car is going to be, what it's going to look like, or where we're going to be testing in the United States; stay posted!

Notes from the Project Manager

The year is shaping up to be pretty eventful for us. As many of you may know, 2015 is our 25th Anniversary of racing solar cars - it's hard to believe that our first car, Sunrunner, raced in 1990. We're incredibly lucky that we have such a rich history: 25 years of stories, failures, and successes that we can build on. The 25th Anniversary is going to be a common theme you'll see in all our media this year. We've got some pretty big plans for 2015 and we can't wait to share them with everyone.

A lot has been going on this past week, both in terms of our next car and the team. Last Wednesday, we unveiled our 2015 race crew - these 20 guys and girls will be taking the summer and Fall semester off to manufacture, test, and race Michigan's next solar car!

Video by EPIK STUDIOS

crateToBMore

This week we also received all our machined plugs from Ford - they've been a tremendous help; our plugs were made with tooling board donated by Axson and DUNA-USA. It's an indescribable emotion to see the machined plugs for the first time; Jiahong and Ryder, two of the team's aerodynamicsts, were in awe - they both spent months perfecting the aerobody in Siemens NX. To see their creation in person for the first time was an unbelievable feeling! 

semiLeaving

Two days ago, we sent a crate with supplies to Baltimore - the crate contained tents, lights, and other various equipment that we'll need in Australia. Today, we sent our semi-trailer on its way as well, where both the crate and the semi will begin the several month sea journey to Oz, courtesy of Höegh Autoliners.

It's hard to believe that there's less than 160 days until the 2015 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge... each week from now on will be busier than the last.

Guest Blog: Adam Zehel from the Business Engagement Center

The University of Michigan’s Solar Car Team is recognized as the most successful team in North America, and this year marks their 25th anniversary. As they celebrate past success, they are also getting ready for the 2015 World Solar Challenge this fall in Australia. With the help from faculty and corporate sponsors, the student-run, Solar Car Team designs and builds a solar electric vehicle every two years. The solar car, which can cost more than 1.2 million dollars, is funded, designed, and built by a multidisciplinary team of engineering, arts, business, and science students.

The Solar Car Team provides students with a hands-on experience working with solar-electric vehicles. Sponsors work closely with the team and enjoy access to a physical test bed to experiment with new technologies and approaches, while interacting with outstanding students. Working with and supporting the team gives your organization access to a great source of proven multidisciplinary talent. “Because of how closely we work with our Platinum- and Gold-level sponsors, most of our team members have begun their careers working for these companies after graduation,” says Pavan Naik, the Solar Car Team’s project manager. “In fact, our sponsors are often the first companies team members consider when pursuing internships or full-time opportunities.” 

"Ford Motor Company finds great value sponsoring the Solar Car team and other auto and non-auto related U-M student teams. These students have shown a willingness to go beyond and above their rigorous classroom education and develop technical understanding relevant to our industry and important leadership and teamwork skills. It's an honor to sponsor and assist these impressive students in their remarkable and highly successful efforts," Ed Krause (B.S.E. 86’, M.S.E. 87’), Global Manager, External Alliances, Ford Motor Company.

With the help and support of corporate partners, the team is getting close to their goal of becoming the best in the world. They offer a variety of different sponsorship levels for both financial and in-kind support. Gain exposure and enhance your brand by having your logo featured on the car as the team creates new frontiers in alternative energy and sustainable engineering. The team plans to reveal their new car in June of this year, so there is still time to help this world renowned team make their mark on the global stage!

Adam Zehel, Marketing and Data Assistant, Business Engagement Center

The University of Michigan’s Business Engagement Center is the pathway connecting dynamic organizations with remarkable talent and resources. We inspire successful collaboration and act as a catalyst to create meaningful, invaluable partnerships. We connect the world’s brightest minds with the world’s greatest companies, sparking innovation and change through collaboration.

 

 

The American Solar Challenge Conference

How do you learn to design and build a solar car? Although it’s possible to watch documentaries, read technical manuals, and pore over photographs, one of the best ways to learn is from someone who has done it before. Last weekend, the team was privileged to host 150 such people in Ann Arbor for the Solar Car Conference, a three-day smorgasbord of knowledge and collaboration sponsored by the parent organization of the American Solar Challenge. Several teams from across the USA and Canada, plus representatives of Dutch Nuon and Australian Team Arrow, were in attendance. 

Friday evening was a fun chance to relax and get to know our friends and competitors, many of whom had driven all day or made lengthy flights to reach Ann Arbor. In addition to some plenary sessions and the obligatory ASC team roll call, the evening featured a massive pizza dinner and a seminar on project management co-hosted by UMSolar leads Pavan Naik and Arnold Kadiu and Nuon alumni Arjan van Velzen and Bart Koek.

Saturday held the heart of the conference’s technical content. Though a dozen concurrent sessions were held – ranging from race logistics taught by veteran racer and ASCorganizer Gail Lueck to solar array basics taught by legendary solar car array manufacturer Alain Chuzel – everyone learned something. The high point of the day for Michigan came during the evening plenary session, when Dr. Nabih Bedewi brought the team up on stage and announced he had a surprise for us. As an Executive Board member of the International Solar Car Federation, Dr. Bedewi was instrumental in organizing the Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge this past January, and presented us with the championship trophy, which until now had been held by our team partners at Abu Dhabi University. It was an honor to finally bring the hardware home!

Sunday seemed to come all too fast, and after a lively morning discussing future rayces and regulations, and a presentation on continuity and knowledge transfer by veteran UMSolar member Aaron Frantz, the conference drew to a close and our friends and perpetual competitors returned to their home institutions to put their newfound knowledge to use on their own vehicles and address the homework they’d neglected all weekend being in Ann Arbor. UMSolar is proud to have hosted this event, and hopes that we’ll see another strong crop of American raycers out on the road soon!

Aaron Frantz, Operations Director

University of Michigan Solar Team Wins Inaugural Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge

Starting in the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, the ADSC required three days of fierce racing through city streets and unending desert. By only a small margin, the team was the first to cross the finish line on the last day of the competition. Overall, Quantum finished roughly two and a half minutes ahead of the second place team, Petroleum Institute. 

The team has a history of strong performances in global solar competitions, but this is the first race they have won on an international stage. Bringing students and alumni together on a team is another first for this student run organization. “What’s really neat is that we’ve taken a legacy car that was never intended to be competitive at this point, a team of people who have never raced together and came out here and battled hard against some amazing competitors,” says Joe Lambert, crew chief and 2004 U-M aerospace engineering graduate. “It speaks to the depth and the integrity of the program that we’ve built. You can step back in, and the heartbeat is still the same. The idea is still the same.”

One more layer of firsts was the team’s partnership with Abu Dhabi University, ADU.

More than a dozen ADU engineering students joined the U-M squad throughout the event. These students spent countless hours working alongside the team, learning about the technology, mechanics and strategy that define a successful solar car organization. “This was a really, really good experience, and it was fun learning about how the car works,” says Mohamed Mukhashin, a fourth year mechanical engineering student at Abu Dhabi University. “Everyone was very friendly and it was impressive to watch their work ethic. Hopefully in two years we will have our own car and be able to be in the race with our new friends.”  

“Watching the Michigan spirit pull through and people pull closer and closer together has showcased exactly what we’ve got out of this program—and exactly what we’ve build this program to do,” explains Jeff Ferman, team manager and 2008 U-M graduate in computer science engineering. “One of the things that drove us to come here was the opportunity to help grow the community. The chance to come back and help get another team started, and then be able to see them compete would be really exciting.”

The team was awarded their trophy by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi at the opening ceremonies of the 2015 World Future Energy Summit, which kicks off Abu Dhabi Sustainability week. Quantum will be on display in various venues through the weeklong event.

Third Time's A Charm

I think this is the third time I’ve gone through scrutineering (technical inspections) with Quantum, going back to 2011. That being said, I’ve seen many of the same inspections people a number of times.

I admit that it is a bit strange this time. We’ve gone though it so many times. We’ve got a car that’s gone through it so many times - that if there’s a small problem it’s almost like a little joke. The scrutineers laugh about it and we laugh about it. Obviously we will correct the issue, but it’s more lighthearted this time around.

It’s also a little strange to be back with the team. When you do it in school, Solar Car is a lifestyle. You devote so much of your life to it. You get a lot of inside jokes going. Once you leave it, you don’t immediately realize that it’s gone. It might sound cliché, but it really is like riding a bike. It all comes back to you. The whole lifestyle, the inside jokes, the people, the little quirks.  It’s strange but it feels really nice.

Earlier, we were talking about how nice it would be to get just an alumni solar car team together because of how much more enjoyable it is when you’re not in school. This actually isn’t a new idea. Every single time after a race, people half-jokingly talk about how fun it would be to build another solar car. As students, we do these races and get all this experience, and then leave the team at the top of our game. And now that we’re back, and it all comes rushing back, we talk about all the stuff we could have done a little better. And that’s kinda what this is. It’s coming back. It’s having fun. It’s making some improvements, but most importantly—reliving the experiences.

 Troy Halm, BSE ‘13 Mechanical Engineering

The Horn Hack

The team had assumed they would use their usual solution of an air horn and that they would just buy one when they got to the country. It turns out that air horns aren’t allowed in Abu Dhabi or the Emerites in general—I guess because of huffing. So we didn’t have a horn, and you can’t just go out and buy a car horn for the solar car. Horns are actually nasty devices and you can’t just hook them up to the 12 volt system on the car.

We had a horn but needed to find a way to power it. We needed to figure something out or get a bigger battery. It seems like you can only buy car batteries in this country. So we had to figure something else out.

Joe looked into my eyes and gave me an inspiration. I thought of something loud that can be annoying on demand. So we went and bought some smoke detectors and a door alarm. But those didn’t pan out because they were too smart. We couldn’t figure out a good way to hack the circuitry to be annoying on demand—in the way that we needed it to be.

So it got to the point where we needed to make this horn work and needed a battery. So we were walking around a hardware store and saw a cordless drill with a 12-volt battery in it. I figured if it can drill a hole, it will have enough current to make the horn blow. We got it, wired it up and now the car has a cordless drill battery in it.

There is a probability of success at any point in time. I have my own internal threshold of where that is, and yesterday we were below that threshold. That’s why I went out and bought three plans worth of pieces. The first two plans didn’t pan out, but what we created was the best solution. It’s actually a real car horn.

These situations happen in every race. You’re going to have to MacGyver things up. I think everyone is capable of thinking like this. You just have to be in the right mind set and practice it. When it’s two days before the race and something isn’t working, you’ve GOT to make it work. A nonfunctional car is zero-percent efficient. In those situations you have to make a mind switch, make compromises and just figure something out.

Jeff Rogers, BSE’ 08, MSE’ 10 College of Engineering Computer Science

A Serendipitous Reunion

I joined the Solar Car Team in the first week of my freshman year, in 2009. They had Continuum on the N. Campus Diag, and I thought it was so cool. I just had to do it.

I started in mechanical and did a lot of other things. I actually did the brakes on Quantum. I got into race strategy and was the race strategist for Quantum in 2011 and the head strategist for the 2012 ASC.

The word got out about this race through the alumni grapevine right around the time I was supposed to hear where I would be stationed for a three-month training period for my job as a wireline field engineer for Slumber J. The three places they could have sent me were Siberia, Oklahoma or Abu Dhabi. I lucked out by getting assigned to Abu Dhabi, knowing that I would be there during the race.

The solar car bonds run deep. Some of my best friends are people I met on the team. Naturally we talk about solar car, probably too much; more than what’s a healthy amount at this stage in our lives. I’ve only worked with two or three of the alumni here, but how this multi-generational team has come together is really cool. 

How many student groups have generations of alumni who can come together and work seamlessly because they have the same common experience and can immediately relate to each other? It’s amazing to see how the spirit lives on. It’s the same mentality across the years, which has been big part of our success. This team is made of people who were the leaders of their teams. Everyone understands what’s expected and what it takes to win.

It’s really special to be back at the track with Quantum again. The last time I raced with Quantum was in 2012, and I fully expected it to be retired. Then it comes back again in 2014 and wins another National Champtionship.  Now this race—in a whole new continent, a place Michigan’s never raced before. It’s pretty wild, ground breaking maybe.

You really can’t watch solar car races. Quantum is going to be zipping around 1200 kilometers or so. I’ll have the live blog on my computer and be following that obsessively. This has been the best part of my day—coming back to solar car.

AJ Trublowski, BSE 13 Mechanical engineering