Solar Miner VIII Rallies, Takes 7th

The American Solar Challenge, the biennial road/highway endurance test for cars and teams alike, wrapped up today at the University of Minnesota campus.

Solar car racing events, whether the annual track race or the biennial road journey, are like big family reunions. The place to renew friendships with competitors, manufacturers and officials alike, and learn from all of them. Competitors share their design ideas and excitement, manufacturers attend to see how their solar arrays are doing and lend moral support, and officials, many of whom are solar car veterans, watch for all the tricks that students try, because their teams did the same thing back “in the day.”

But the fun and camaraderie masks the hard work needed to field a solar car, or manage any other complex project.
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Missouri S&T’s Solar Car Team has been in a long rebuilding period. They hadn’t qualified for the track since 2011 so their focus was on reorganizing the team and cobbling together systems that weren’t necessarily designed to integrate well. In short, the checkbook was closed and they had to make do with what they had, and it became a great motivational learning tool because they did remarkably well at Formula Sun Grand Prix in Austin, Texas just two weeks ago.
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Out of twenty international teams, the Miners took 7th place despite driving just two of the available three track days. On the last day they climbed as high as 3rd for the day but the loss of a track day left them in a still-admirable position when the track finally closed. They wanted to make sure the car was finally “right,” and it was. Drivers Austin Holmsley and Devin Valmores guided Solar Miner VIII through 88 penalty- and trouble-free laps, right at 300 miles, in two mostly cloudy days. That performance more than qualified Missouri S&T for the Austin-to-Minneapolis road race but weeks earlier the team decided to return home.

We support the team’s choice. Finances and a lack of road experience played a part in the decision, but the students recognized the real goal was to qualify with a good car and a good team, which they did.

These are young students, and they learned the value of team operations and successful communications. They came back fired up and are already planning the car that will run in summer 2016. In fact, they are considering renaming the team “reCHARGE” in recognition of what they hope is Missouri S&T’s return to top-tier, cross-country performance.

Oh, yeah, Michigan won the road race.

40 Laps. 137 Miles. Under Full Cloud Cover

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Not bad, not bad at all! A near-faultless drive by Devin Valamores and Austin Homesly, and a very dependable car that vanquished The Hill. The entertainment was on the straightaway and The Hill. Everywhere else it was "slow and steady" to … [Continue reading]

The Little Red Solar Car That (Finally) Could!

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Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville is the underdog, the team everyone is pulling for. Rumor is they use an old motor that makes a heckuva racket, but that just doesn't have the "oomph!" They've attacked The Hill over and cover again to no … [Continue reading]

It’s Good To Be Back!

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Hill? What hill? Solar Miner VIII took the hill from hell as if it wasn't even there. No 200-yard running start, no hesitating, no fear, just boys-will-be-boys pedal to the carbon fiber and jaws dropped all over the paddock. #42 has been … [Continue reading]

At Dawn They Ride!

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If the damned rain ever quits………….. … [Continue reading]

The Hill Of Death Eats Solar Cars

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Problem #1: Straight out of the pits is the Mt Everest of solar car racing. The Hill. Most teams entering the track have to go in the opposite direction, turn around, and get a 200-yard running start to have a good chance of making it to turn #1. … [Continue reading]

S&T Clears Dynamics Test/What’s A Few Cones Among Friends?

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The Solar Miners squeezed through scrutineering with some difficulties, but got high enough marks to reach the dynamics (wet braking, figure eight, slalom and U-turn radius) events. Drivers Austin Holmsley and Devin Valmores each had a crack at … [Continue reading]

Letha And The Beetle

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It's not always about the car. Sometimes it's the little side stories that add the human spice, memories that will bring a smile years from now. Letha Young, Honorary Knight of St Patrick, has long been the Team Mom, student herder, fire … [Continue reading]

What’s A Solar Car Race Without Rain?

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Endless 16-hour days are wearing on this crew, but out of the exhaustion has risen a quiet determination to get things done. No drama, no meltdowns, just an intense focus on the tasks at hand. Fix the battery management system, clear the dynamic … [Continue reading]

It’s Too Blasted Late To Write A Coherent Story!

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So we'll go with lots of photos and a few wisecracks. News? S&T qualified for the dynamic tests but still have a few bugs to work out. Easy-open top, perfect for those hungry bears when you drive through Glacier National … [Continue reading]