Most college students are off for the summer. Companies looking for new talent across a range of engineering and design disciplines, however, might do well to pay attention to those still hard at work under the hot sun.
Last week, the American Solar Challenge got started at Motorsport Park Hastings (yes, that's MPH) in Hastings, Nebraska, where 24 schools (including several foreign entries) arrived to compete in the cross-country road race for solar-powered vehicles that this year will trace the Oregon Trail on a 1,780-mile route ending in Bend, Oregon. Eighteen of those vehicles seat multiple occupants, and six seat single occupants.
The first part of the event — called scrutineering — occurred in Hastings this week during the track-style Formula Sun Grand Prix. The highest-scoring single-occupant vehicle is from Polytechnique Montreal, while the University of Minnesota leads scoring in the multi-occupant category.
The cross-country journey begins tomorrow, July 14, and is projected to end on July 22 in Bend. Here are the stops:
Among the teams is the Solar Racing squad from Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, entering for the first time. In a release from the school, Tiffany Chau, a mechanical engineering major and outreach lead for the team who works on the car's exterior aerobody, said, "We hope to prove that our systems are robust, reliable, and competitive."
Among the Georgia Tech SR-2 Odyssey vehicle's specs and stats:
From just to the east in Boone, North Carolina comes ROSE (Racing on Solar Energy), the second car built by Team Sunergy, Appalachian State University's 15-student, four-faculty team, which is using this race as a stepping stone to the 2019 World Solar Challenge in Australia. In a release from the university, team founder, former student leader and now executive faculty director Dan Blakeley, a U.S. Army Ranger with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, told his interviewer the team's chances were "Very good. Practicality-wise and appearance-wise, we have an edge. And, when we look at the car, we say, 'Oh, man! I'd drive that!' "
According to the school, the team has benefited from input on aerodynamics and carbon fiber construction from University of North Carolina System Board of Governors member Randall "Randy" Ramsey at his Jarrett Bay Boatworks manufacturing operation in Beaufort. That wasn't the only industry connection — the ROSE team got its composite seats from a small North Carolina company named Compmillenia LLC, located in the town of Little Washington. And they worked with VX Aerospace in Morganton to make the carbon fiber body, using a vacuum infusion process.
Team Sunergy falls under the auspices of Appalachian's Office of Sustainability Appalachian State University Chancellor Sheri Everts has said the team's work "represents the bold, confident and pioneering attitude that so perfectly represents our campus and its vision to build a brighter future."
The MIT Solar Electric Vehicle Team has been around for over 30 years. The team from the University of California-Berkeley, nicknamed CalSol, has been competing for nearly that long, constructing its first vehicle — California Dreamin' — between the summers of 1990 and 1993. Zephyr, CalSol's 8th-generation solar vehicle, finished first in the Formula Sun Grand Prix 2017.
The CalSol team also benefits from industry partnerships. In an April blog, team members thanked Bay Area Circuits for its assistance in making the solar car's printed circuit boards (PDBs). "From a complex board that monitors the status of the battery to a simpler board that reads how much the brake and accelerator pedals are pressed down, each PCB reads data from sensors that it's connected to, processes the information, and transmits it to the rest of the car," they explained.
From Rolla, Missouri, the Missouri S&T Solar Car team has been competing since 1993 as well. "Solar Miner (internally named 'The Dolphin') is named after our 1997 car, which has influenced every car that came after it," the team says on its home page. The S&T squad placed fourth in the 2016 American Solar Challenge, finishing the 1,976-mile race in 64 hours, 14 minutes and 40 seconds.
New race rules limit the solar to four square meters of silicon array. "That's two square meters less than the 2016 American Solar Challenge," explains the Missouri S&T team. But the biggest challenge is "The Big Climb," an elevation change of around 3,000 feet that will come about 30 miles into the event's third stage.
The Missouri team car's name? Independence, after the city in Missouri where the Oregon Trail begins.
Follow the race and link to team home pages over the next 10 days here.