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.