Support for Solar Miners

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Media coverage

FYI. Tommy Tran was interviewed by KY-3! Check it out.

Bob is sort of the Chuck Norris of solar car racing

Without Bob, there would be no solar car racing, and the world would be a much darker place. (More photos from this morning at http://solar42.mst.edu/.)

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Made it to Jeff City (and beyond) today, Rolla tomorrow

After a day of back and forth racing with Germany and Minnesota, S&T settled for being the fourth team to make it to the Jeff City checkpoint. They got a good charge at the checkpoint and are off again. They expected to make it to the lake region before racing ends for the day. Michigan should get to Lebanon.
Bob says he got some great shots of the cars with the capitol building in the background. He’s hoping he gets a chance to post photos and a final wrap-up of what happened today at some point.
The cars will begin arriving in Rolla at some point tomorrow morning (probably late morning), depending on how things go.

Breaking news

Minnesota’s Twitter feed just said that “s&t is right behind us, soon to pass.”
Then we got a call from Bob, who can’t blog right now due to race duties. He’s with our team near Lone Jack, Mo. Apparently, Solar Miner VII has already passed Germany this morning. If/when S&T gets past the Gophers, it will be Wolverine season.
Note that, while today’s racing is going extremely well for S&T (so far), the overall standings include the elapsed time going back to Broken Arrow.
Bob will be back later with a prolific post that includes details about today’s action. In the meantime, we are also blogging this at http://solar42.mst.edu/ (for no apparent reason other than that we’re nerds who are really into this race).
UPDATE: Bob just called back. Minnesota took a wrong turn, and we followed them. We realized the mistake, turned around, and got ahead of them. But by this time Germany was ahead us. So now we’re traveling in a pack, with Germany right ahead of us. Still in third for the day.
ANOTHER UPDATE: So we just blew by Germany again. We are in second. This has all happened within the past half hour or so. Follow the blogs, Twitter, Facebook, whatever for more information. It’s crazy.

West Coast report

S&T’s world-ranked Formula SAE team probably has the most grueling competition series of any U.S., or for that matter, foreign team. They are literally racing coast-to-coast for 2009, winning the Virginia warm-up race and taking 6th at the world event in Michigan. They even sandwiched a valuable trip to team sponsor’s Goodyear Akron test facility after the grueling northern trip. Their goal was now to win the FSAE season finale near Los Angeles and wrap up the Miners’ best season ever. This is not just a case of shifting the well-trained crew from race to race; it is summertime and not every student who worked the previous races is available. Some have summer jobs, a few are taking classes, and others have even graduated so the team isn’t playing with a full deck (so to speak) 🙂
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Anyway, after overcoming some highway drama en route (see previous story), S&T Racing started the event in fine style by sailing through tech inspection with no issues, then winning the skid pad event for the first time ever. The skid pad is a very tight figure-eight course run one direction then the other. It is a timed test to determining how fast and effectively a car can make it through the kind of demanding turns drivers will encounter in both the autocross and endurance courses.
While waiting to start the autocross event, team leader Aaron Young called in to say the Miners made the design semifinals for the third time this year, a very consistent showing. As it turns out only two teams (usually it is 4 or 5 crews) made the finals and S&T was unfortunately not in that elite pairing.
By that time perennial racing power Rochester Institute of Technology, which placed very high at the Michigan races, had established themselves as the leader. Going into the all-important endurance race RTI held a 40 point lead over the Miners, with the other 96% of the teams so far behind as to be barely on the radar. There would be no way to tell if an RTI miscue and another miraculous driving effort like we saw from Andrew D’Hooge and D.J. Quint in Michigan last month could rally the Miners to their best-ever racing season.
In what amounted to a two-car race RTI and S&T performed extremely well but in one of those cruel twists of fate a sheared bolt doomed to the Miners to a DNF (did not finish) in the all-important endurance race. The endurance race requires each team to pit their car for a driver change and equalize any advantage one particularly skilled driver might hold, as well as to make sure fresh drivers are on course at all times. When S&T’s car
came into the pits all was going well. The driver swap went quickly but just as Rolla tried to pull back onto the course a steering bolt failed and made the car undriveable, eliminating any chance to win the day.
Ironically this may have been the result of the Miners’ exceptional performance for 2009. The car was road ready earlier than usual so S&T had time to train to an extraordinary degree, practicing with the car several times a week. It takes a lot of asphalt to practice autocross racing, so Rolla’s K-Mart, Lowe’s and even the Waynesville High School parking lots became “tracks for a day”, except that “tracks for a night” would be more accurate because much of that testing took place around midnight.
It may have been that ambitious testing regimen that led to the car’s demise. Per SAE rules these teams build a new car each year and sell, scrap or retire their cars tp training vehicles. In short, the cars have a design life cycle of only one season and S&T’s car came up short by maybe 15 minutes. We’ve reported the Miners “thrashed” their car to a spectacular endurance race finish in Michigan, and that was the norm for S&T Racing this year. They pushed that car to its best through months of practice, training their drivers to razor’s edge perfection and setting a new benchmark of team organization and performance. They continued that remarkable pace through at least two trips to professional testing facilities, three major races, and perhaps surprisingly, numerous public relations and recruiting outreach events. All of that work may have edged the flashy car just minutes past its design limit.
And while their official SAE racing season is over, the learning opportunities continue. Most of the team is remaining an extra day in California to take in some seminars to help them now, next season, and throughout their professional careers in years to come.
Now THAT’S an S&T education.

Race on

We just left the starting line behind Michigan and Minnesota. (Michigan’s chase vehicles look like a presidential motorcade.) Our laptop is actually working in the van at the moment, so maybe we’ll be able to provide a mid-day update later.
P.S. In addition to getting great updates and fantastic photos at this site, you can listen to timely audio interviews from the road and watch videos (eventually) at http://solar42.mst.edu/ .

Bridge builders

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This is S&T’s 2008 Steel Bridge Team, which qualified for nationals this weekend. Details are available several posts back, so you might want to scroll down. OK. Back to human-powered vehicle action after this….

Canoe pics


OK, in case you can’t tell, the splashing on the left is NOT geese diving for food. It is an unidentified Miner coming to the surface using a kick-stroke. Word is that our bow paddler was swinging the paddle so frantically that he didn’t realize he was splashing water INTO the boat. The faster he went, the deeper the boat settled. Wonder what the rear admiral was doing all this time?

And now after he jettisoned his bow-buddy, the rear admiral begins his solo slog to the finish……..

This may turn out to be a struggle between pride and hypothermia………..

………and to the cheers (or laughter) of the other contestants, nears completion of the race. At least he didn’t go down with the ship.
While no one can say the guys didn’t finish the race, maybe they can take some lessons from the women, who clearly seem to know that you keep the water UNDER the boat……….


Maybe that’s why Miner women tend to take more leadership positions on campus, have higher GPAs, and stay drier.

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A nice day for a brisk swim

Missouri S&T took on water and had to abandon canoe during the first outing today on Lake Fayetteville. It took a heroic effort, but the canoe ("Shamrock") was saved and even pulled across the finish line (to huge applause) by a determined (and cold) S&T swimmer. We got video of this (maybe) and will post it Monday. If we were to make a feature film, we’re sure it would be a lot like that movie Rudy. We’ve also got some photos (hopefully) of some S&T women paddlers who tried to give it another go later but kept getting sideways in the water (at least they didn’t sink). It doesn’t look good for S&T, in terms of winning the 2008 concrete canoe regional. But we can report that the weather is nice and team members are having a great time anyway and keeping their heads high and mostly above water. Apparently, their presentation to the judges yesterday was a big hit — because they were informative, funny and entertaining. We’ll follow-up on all of this and post whatever video and photos we have by Monday afternoon. For now, it’s back to Missouri.