Thank You, Eaton!

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We were excited that Eaton decided to partner with our team at the Platinum level as we designed, built, and raced Novum!

While this was not Eaton’s first cycle with the team, we were thrilled by their increased involvement this cycle! This build cycle, we had the pleasure of collaborating with Eaton on multiple facets of our car. Eaton provided products that helped in the assembly of Novum over the summer of 2017, as well as engineering support throughout both 2017 and 2018 as we raced Novum in 2 races.

Eaton and UM Solar Car both are interested in pushing what’s next in eMobility. Craig Jacobs, the Director of New Product Introduction for Eaton’s eMobility and a Solar Car Team alum, explains, “Students working with industry forms a great learning experience for all involved.  The students get some real world teamwork and problem solving experience not frequently taught in the classroom. From the company’s perspective, it gives us access to creative ideas and perspectives that we don’t see every day. Students tend to ask ‘why’ and ‘why not’ a little bit more than experienced engineers and drive innovation and creative thinking.” Jacobs also notes,  “The students who get into teams like solar car and really contribute are those that are in it because they want to be engineers and work on cutting edge technology.”

The Eaton team was eager to help our team as they looked for a platform to showcase advancing technologies. And 2017 was a great year to do so, because UM Solar Car pushed the bounds of what a solar car can and should look like, building a radically small solar car that sports a state-of-the-art, space-grade, multi-junction gallium arsenide array. We appreciate Eaton providing us with machining and real-world products from their catalog. All of these products and machining were key to our success in 2017 and 2018.

We can’t thank Eaton enough for the contributions they made to Novum to ensure the car is safe, reliable, and as efficient as possible. Eaton helped develop Novum’s array stand, which was integral to our competitive advantage; it allowed us to get the most out of our state-of-the-art array. 2017 Race Mechanical Engineer, Jake Anderson explains that “Eaton machined three sets of array stand components for us. Without these components, the car would not have functioned, making [Eaton’s] contribution critical to the success of our vehicle.” These components allowed our 2017 Race Crew to raise Novum’s array and angle it in the optimal position. This positioning maximizes the power that the array takes in from the sun. The array stand components were of the highest quality; Eaton anodized them, giving the metal parts a thin coating to ensure that no corrosion develops.

As we head into the design cycle for our 15th car, we are looking for new ways to collaborate with Eaton, both in using more of their electrical products and gaining help with engineering design and machining.

Thank you, Ford!

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Ford helped the University of Michigan Solar Car Team at every step of the way, from car construction to race preparation and finally, to the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge itself.

“Manufacturing or racing our 14th car would not have been possible without Ford's support,” 2017 Project Manager Jonathan Cha elaborates, going on to describe the details of Ford’s help. “Ford has supported us with machine time in the Ford Design Milling shop, caravan vehicles, and usage of the Jacobs Wind Tunnel. This year, we designed the most aerodynamic vehicle in the team's 28-year history, and with Ford's help, we were able to verify our vehicle's aerodynamic capabilities in their wind tunnel.”

When we built Novum, Ford milled plugs from our tooling board for us to use in our composites manufacturing process. Building an all-carbon fiber car is no small feat, and having Ford’s help with this all-important step ensured that we put our best foot forward in this difficult process. These plugs enabled us to make our molds, and our molds enable us to make our carbon fiber chassis, canopy, upper, fenders, and fairings. Ford-milled plugs were the first step in building our entire aerobody. This means that Ford Milling had a direct hand in helping the University of Michigan take its most aerodynamic car to date off of the drawing board and into reality.

Once we finished building Novum, BWSC preparations were not over. Ford yet again graciously allowed the University of Michigan Solar Car Team to test its solar vehicle in its Jacobs Wind Tunnel. There, in order to gain a better comprehension of the performance and efficiency of Novum, team members conducted various aerodynamic tests. And because we were testing in Ford’s wind tunnel, we were able to acquire numerous data points for a wider range of angles and speeds than we otherwise could have.

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We covered Novum in tell tails, strings attached at several points on the car that enabled our engineers to gauge turbulence and air flow. The team also performed other air flow tests at different yaw angles. Injecting smoke into the wind tunnel, for example, granted the team an opportunity to observe with great visualization where Novum has flow separation along its aerobody.

All these tests and coefficient calculations had far-reaching benefits for Michigan’s racing efforts. Being able to accurately quantify these aerodynamic values meant possessing reliable numbers that we could base our race simulations on; this helped our Strategy Division make decisions and plan ahead when on the road in Australia.

Ford also influenced our race operations, providing us with our Lead, Chase, Scout, Weather, and Media caravan vehicles in Australia to support Novum’s trek across the Outback. Being able to race with this full caravan meant that Novum had the support she needed and our Race Crew’s capabilities were not limited.

Ever a staunch supporter of the team, Ford was integral to the University of Michigan’s recent historic finish in the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. We are now working together in preparation for the 2018 American Solar Challenge, making sure our team successfully modifies Novum to comply with regulations. For example, Ford milled the plug for our new canopy, which is currently in the process of being built.

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We are very grateful for the past 25 years of partnership with Ford, and we look forward to continuing collaboration in the future!

Thank you, ZF!

It can be said that for any car, multiple things need to go well. The engine must run, the wiring must connect, the driver interface must be well put together, and the motor must be fully functional. That’s not even getting into all the aspects that comprise the vehicle’s aerodynamic design. However, no aspect of vehicle building or planning can come to fruition without what is likely one of the most fundamental components of any car: the wheels.

It is the wheels that literally move the car forward, and bring the driver to his or her destination. And ZF was there for us to ensure that Novum, our smallest solar car, would move forward. “Without ZF’s machining capabilities, we wouldn’t have been able to manufacture our front and rear wheels,” says 2017 Race Mechanical Engineer Jake Anderson.

Thanks to the reliable wheels we had machined by ZF, we were able to move full speed ahead—both literally and figuratively—to our first-ever 2nd place Bridgestone World Solar Challenge finish. In Australia, we had a lot riding on our performance. We were experimenting with a new aerodynamic design, and consequently had much to think about in terms how we would adjust our race strategy to meet this new design. Add this onto the fact that we were dealing with exposure to some of the harshest natural elements the world has to offer, and this can easily seem like an overwhelming situation. Having durable, reliable, and versatile equipment is integral to the survival of any vehicle, but ZF’s wheels went above and beyond. Not only were they of the utmost reliability, but they helped us thrive under the extreme temperatures and extreme road conditions of the Outback.

In the past, many of our wheels had formed cracks in the rims, leading to the team spending precious race time on taking care of these structural issues. ZF’s machining capabilities were of great help to our mechanical team. Their knowledge and analysis of the crack formations on our previous wheels allowed us to fine tune the wheels we ended up using.

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ZF also provided us with shock absorbers that Jake says “never once failed us and required minimal maintenance, allowing us to focus on other car systems.”

Our historic second-place finish did not come without great effort—but it wasn’t just our own efforts. ZF’s hands-on, professional, and world-class assistance helped us move forward in this race—and that is something our members still speak of nearly half a year after the race. Thank you, ZF! We couldn’t have done it without you!

Thank you, R Systems!

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R Systems played a key role in helping the University of Michigan Solar Car Team design its successful solar car, Novum, giving our engineers the capability and flexibility to run crucial aerodynamics simulations.

The aerodynamics simulations, Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) tests, require a great deal of computational power, and R Systems provided us with that power. The team needed to assess canopy shape, lower shape, array shape, trailing edge, leading edge, and other characteristics--to develop a strong aerodynamic design, UM Solar Car had to put our best foot forward in regards to all these aerodynamic components, and we had to do it quickly.

During the design cycle, our team works at a rapid pace and on an exacting timeline. If certain benchmarks are not reached, the whole project is in jeopardy. Our engineers work often well into the morning; they know that if designs are not improved upon and finished on time, the car cannot be built on time and cannot be shipped on time and so cannot race. But designs cannot be improved upon in a timely fashion if they cannot be assessed quickly, and on a typical desktop computer, running just one CFD simulation can take an entire day. Over the course of our entire design cycle, the Aerodynamics Division ran over 200 simulations.

With one a day, that would mean 200 days, and the team did not have that kind of time to wait around for results to come in one by one. “When the team needs to iterate over a number of different aerodynamic components of the car, the design process can easily span more than a year,” explains 2017 Head Strategist Alan Li.

But with R Systems’ support, we could complete a CFD simulation in not one day, but two hours. R Systems enabled us to not only run individual simulations more quickly, but also to run multiple simulations simultaneously without slowing down any running parallel to one another.

This allowed us to maintain the fast pace our design and build cycles called for. And even more than that, this speed allowed us to try out a larger number of shape designs and afforded us more time to brainstorm and review results. The flexibility to explore a wider array of possibilities yielded a better car than we could have otherwise designed--it yielded Novum.

As the University of Michigan came close to finalizing Novum’s design, R Systems proved very accommodating and supportive, helping the team when problems with the timeline arose. “We had only half the time to complete the task,” 2017 Aerodynamics Lead Jiahong Min recalls. “So, we contacted R Systems to ask for more resources. They got back to us almost immediately and gave us twice the computing power we normally get, allowing us to complete the design on schedule.” Within the span of just one week, UM Solar Car ran around 100 simulations with the computing power R Systems provided.

One big thing that makes Novum impressive is its aerodynamic prowess and how its aerobody stands out from the rest, departing from solar car design convention. We were able to try something new and take that risk and execute it well because of R Systems’ support.

And during the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge last fall, R Systems provided our Strategy Division’s Weatherman the capacity to run models while racing in the middle of the Australian Outback. The models take about six hours to run, which was quickly enough for our Strategy Division to analyze the results during the race and make important tactical decisions pertaining to speed and charging locations while on the road.

With the help of R Systems, UM Solar Car stayed on track both during the design cycle and during the race. Thank you, R Systems, for making our historic finish possible!

Thank you, Offices of the President and Provost!

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We are always happy when we have the opportunity to partner with different offices, departments, and colleges within the University of Michigan, but working with the Offices of the President and Provost in particular has helped us engage with our university community in new and exciting ways. After meeting with the President and Provost last spring, the Solar Car Team has taken steps to ensure we are a part of the College of Engineering and the University of Michigan’s efforts to increase Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on campus.

Through our work with the Offices of the President and Provost, the team has developed a five-year Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion plan of our own that parallels the ones developed by the College of Engineering and the University. We have already begun looking into ways that we can meet the goals set out in our plan. Part of our DEI plan is to appoint a Team Relations Coordinator to oversee our DEI initiatives and ensure that the team environment is welcoming and friendly. Our first Team Relations Coordinator, Abigail Siegal, comments, “I’m excited about the things we have in the works! I’ve been looking into ways to relieve the financial burden of racing, new ways of recruiting, and different team bonding events we can do. I truly believe that all of these initiatives will make our team stronger.”

The team is eager to see the diversity of thought that these plans may bring to the team. The ultimate goal is that the team will be more diverse and every member will feel comfortable proposing new ideas and asking important questions. When you have people coming from different backgrounds in a multidisciplinary environment like UM Solar Car’s, people will be able to bring different strengths to the table. We strive to be the best team in the world and the best way to do that is to have the best people possible in a truly collaborative environment. The involvement of Offices of the President and the Provost makes it easier for us to do just that!

The financial support of the Offices of the President and the Provost will not only help us with achieving this goal, but as we continue to strive to be not only the best the solar car team in the United States, but in the world!

Thank you, University of Michigan College of Engineering

The University of Michigan College of Engineering is an invaluable partner of the Michigan Solar Car Team.

Since 2011, the College of Engineering has allowed the team access to the Wilson Student Team Project Center. The Wilson Center is the epicenter of the Solar Car Team; here, the team stores composites, meets to discuss procurement, does battery work, and morehere, we piece the solar car together.

It cannot be overlooked that the College also provides the team with most of its talented, dedicated recruits. A team is only as strong as its individual members, and when the majority of these members study at one of the top engineering schools in the world, that strength is formidable.

During the 2016 American Solar Challenge, the College of Engineering provided UM Solar with social media coverage. It also wrote articles and put out press releases both before and after the race detailing the team’s work and accomplishments. The team appreciates the marketing value this granted us.

The team is very grateful for the College of Engineering’s continued support; without the College of Engineering, the Michigan Solar Car Team would lack workspace, engineers, and extra publicity. Without the College of Engineering, UM Solar would not function so smoothly. Thank you, Michigan Engineering!