S&T Students On The Solar Car Race

It’s true that Solar Miner VIII wasn’t ready to race in the Formula Sun Grand Prix/American Solar Challenge events this summer, but S&T students are still getting solid race experience as members of other solar car teams.
Rarely does every team qualify for the track or road events; some go home with an unfinished car, some can’t repair accident damage, and some simply overlook critical design requirements. Stuff happens.
Those programs aren’t failures if they learn from the mistakes, and that’s what interim team leader Alex Hoeft and fellow race rookie Ethan Winberg have set out to do.
They left Rolla nearly two weeks ago to see what it really takes to assemble a successful team, and quickly landed a spot on Georgia Tech’s roster. Alex reported “I saw how important team dynamics were, how the Yellow Jackets worked together and acomplished so much with a small team plus Ethan and me. Unfortunately GT didn’t qualify for the American Solar Challenge, so we switched to Western Michigan’s team. We got to know WM pretty well when they, too, tried to help Georgia, so it worked out fine for us.”
Alex summarized the race as battered and slowed by the weather, with several cars ‘running out of gas’ and being trailered to some of the stage stops. This is the year, after all, that teams had to switch to the less powerful/less expensive solar cells, which put the teeth back in the term Solar CHALLENGE.
“I have also seen that most of the technicial issues teams have are in implementation not in the engineering it self. Most of the time that is fairly sound. Not always but most of the time,” said Alex. “I also have quite a few new technical ideas that need testing as well as some best practices for manufacturing and design of some parts. especially in the suspension and electronics areas.”
“Ultimately we have a good understanding of how to rebuild our team for 2013, and that’s probably the most valuable lesson we could bring back from this competition.”