That Constant Droning Sound

GrindingDSC_9727Visitors to the solar paddock could be excused for thinking that Texas-sized mosquitoes are swarming the site, but the constant buzzing comes from dozens of grinders, sawzalls, drills and Dremel tools.

Most of these schools have been in solar racing for years, but that doesn’t mean mistakes aren’t made. Each year new students join and experienced ones graduate; the newbies get the chance to make the same errors as did their predecessors. Misinterpret rules changes, transpose measurements, forget to tighten all the fasteners, or make a panel too big, all foul-ups that come with the human condition, all things they have to learn to deal with in complex projects. And that means that remaking panels or grinding down fairings so your tires don’t rub.

Scrutineering continues today. Solar Miner VIII had a few problems and got some high praise yesterday. The ScruitneeringDSC_9482horn wasn’t loud enough, the rear-view camera was loose, and the headrest wasn’t up to par, but the Miners were stunned when the judges said S&T’s solar array wiring was the best of any car here. “Really? Our car? You sure about that? COOL!”

Today it’s battery systems and driver safety. Mods to battery controls are not uncommon, but maddeningly difficult to get right. Driver access, egress, cooling and visibility are all critical, but once made right allow the car to tackle the dynamic tests of braking and handling.
Teams got a two-lap track familiarization tour this morning, in a caravan of support vehicles. Kinda fun to drive a beat-up 200,000-mile van around a real Formula One track, but it was business. Team leader John Schoberle narrated a videotape so drivers can have virtual practice runs tonight. Yes, a video game.