“Missouri S&T Has Broken Their Kingpin. They’re Out!”

That’s the message that crackled across the FSGP radio net just a few minutes ago.
Freshman Wesley Hacket had found his groove and was turning lap after fast lap, helping S&T to tally nearly 70 laps this FSGPCrashSUN_0933.jpgafternoon when the suspension collapsed leaving Solar Miner VII helpless and facing the wrong way. Losing the kingpin caused the left front wheel to fold up under the car, and took S&T out of the competition with less than an hour to go.
The Miner support team jumped in the track van and headed to the now-conjested corner to extract Wesley, clear the course of debris, and figure out what happened. Once they got him back to the pit area and he began to breathe again, he reported that the rear tire had gone flat and handling was getting a little flakey. Before he could even radio the problem to the pits there was a loud “POP!” up front, the car started spinning, and he was suddenly facing oncoming traffic. We understand that the content of his next transmission may well be looked into by the FCC. 🙂
Here’s the preliminary report:
1. Wesley was uninjured but his heart rate was sure soaring
2. The rear wheel was ground down to ruin by the sideways spin
3. The $15,000 drive motor seems to be undamaged
4. Solar Miner VII took some damage to the underside of the array
5. The solar cells look OK
They’ll have to wait to the checkered flag to bring the car back to the pits for a full inspection, but this probably was the retirement lap for good ol’ SMVII.
Too bad, because as late in the race as it was, and the fact that the sun was actually shining, meant that teams (including the Miners) were going all-out to set their fastest lap times.
It’s no crime if SMVII is put out to pasture, because it’s time to design and build SMVIII, based partly on the lessons learned this weekend. With luck, the chassis can be repaired and used as a driver training tool.
OK, Formula Sun Grand Prix 2011 is over. Time to clean up, head to the awards dinner, then join local S&T alums for a party.
See you back in Rolla tomorrow evening!

Light Rain Gives Way To Blue Skies. Briefly.

A light rain gave way to clear skies around 10:00 a.m. local time, but the clouds have closed up again leaving Formula Sun Grand Prix with just enough sunlight to cast a slight shadow. That may be enough to keep solar cars running at consistent speeds, and to keep the afternoon’s laps exciting enough to keep the public interested.
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Solar Miner VII seems to have put all its difficulties behind, at least for now. Justin Reynolds is flying around the course, keeping pace with, if not pulling away from, race leader Minnesota.
The Golden Gophers have been running steadily since Thursday morning when they jumped out to a lead that Illinois State and Northwestern have been unable to close, and pulling away from 4th-place Iowa State. The Miners essentially forfeited any chance to run with the pack by sitting out days 1 and 2 to get the car straightened out.
Now they have to figure out their power consumption. That’ll guide their strategy, because if they drive too fast they’ll end up on the side of the road, waiting for the sun to refill their tanks, so to speak.
The real value of Formula Sun? Some teams (Michigan) is using FSGP to break in a new car. Newcomer Michigan State is fielding a car that should become the foundation of a long-term group project. Others, including S&T, are getting their younger team members some valuable experience. The Miners are already making a list of do’s and dont’s they’ll incorporate into the next design. Which, by the way, David Long and Dan Leafblad plan to start on next week.

Rain and Rain-X

According to the threatening skies and weather radar, we should be in a downpour right now, but little precipitation seems to be hitting the pavement. We’ve been watching thousands of half-marathon runners loop through the track for at least the last hour, with news choppers overhead providing breathless (sorry!) coverage of today’s kick-off event.
FSGP rainxDSC_1477.jpgFSGPmarathonDSC_1407.jpg
Most of the cars are aiming their arrays eastward in a probably futile attempt to grab that last little bit of power. Rain-X has become the hot commodity, since these cars have no defrosters, heaters, or windshield wipers, so everyone is coating the inside and outside of their windshields with the stuff.
And the breakfast menu? The menu has changed from trail mix and potato chips to dry donuts and weak orange juice, thanks to an emergency grocery store run.
For lunch? A smorgasbord of leftovers that Letha has been carefully hoarding. That means this afternoon all the gear will be cleaned up, organized and put away.
Dinner? The FSGP folks are hosting a dinner/awards event around 5 p.m., followed by partying with Miner alums.

Zombies Vs. Humans………..

………is what it looks at the IMS this morning. Scores of perky volunteers are setting up for this morning’s half marathon, due to sweep through the Speedway grounds around 8:00 a.m.
FSGPtires3DSC_1373.jpgIn last night’s briefing solar car teams were told to be at the track no later than 6:00 a.m. to avoid a crush of traffic. Missouri S&T and Michigan State followed orders and found themselves in a deserted parking lot wondering “where the heck is everybody else?” No race officials, no nothin’ but two schools’ bleary-eyed crew members zombies staggering around incoherently, mourning the extra hour of sleep that might have been.
This morning’s 53 degrees seem almost balmy compared to much of this past week, and rain is approaching from the west so we doubt any solar car endurance records will fall today.
Most of the teams took advantage of last night’s sunset to charge their cars in anticipation of a power shortage today. S&T did seem to get its tire-chewing alignment corrected last night, just in time to get a lap or two under their belts. Dan Leafblad and Justin Reynolds put a lot of effort into wrestling new tires on aluminum wheels, while we hear of another team that put tire sealer on a rim rather than dish detergent. Note to team: glue is NOT the same thing as lubricant.
Back to track activities, today not only features 30,000+ health freaks running the 2.5-mile course, but a balloon glow, an Allison Transmission-hosted Emerging Technology showcase, hybrid formula car exhibits, and the Formula Sun Grand Prix of course. The night closes out with fireworks, but by that time the Miners will be having dinner with some great local alumni.
Update: 7:00 a.m. local time.
The PA system has come to life blaring the Beach Boys’ “Little Deuce Coup”, five teams have their arrays pointed toward a fast-disappearing morning sun, and there is still no sign of the hordes of people expected at the track.
Just goes to prove that “no good dead shall go unpunished.”

SMVII Heads Back To The Track

The Miners, with a lot of help from our Principia College friends, have just completed an eyeball chassis alignment. There’s only 20 minutes left in today’s racing but they are gonna try to squeeze in a few more laps.
In the meantime there is a tortoise-and-hare race developing between Michigan and Michigan State. We’ll leave it up to those two teams to decide who is the “little sister”, but here’s what we see.
Michigan has an exquisite piece of industrial art that is extremely fast, but they are turning very few laps.
Rookie team Michigan State arrived with a car that only a mother could love. MichStateSUN_0367.jpg
Looks like someone covered a sheet of plywood with solar cells, dropped it on a bathtub equipped with wheels, and glued on a canopy from an F-117 jet as an afterthought. But you know what? It has been running laps for a good part of the day, and it may well win in-state bragging rights!
In the meantime Minnesota, Northwestern, and Illinois State have been running pretty much all day. Kentucky is making slow but steady progress, Western Michigan is back out there and courageous newcomer New Mexico managed a few laps early today.

Formula Sun Grand Prix Heats Up

<img alt="FSGPBLOGDSC_1162 – Version 2.jpg" src="http://experiencethis.mst.edu/FSGPBLOGDSC_1162%20-%20Version%202.jpg" width="700" height="373" class="mt-image-none"
Heavy clouds and intermittent light rain prevented teams from doing much, if any, charging this morning, but by 9:00 a.m. things had improved enough to take the event group photo on the symbolic brick strip.
When the photo session was over hints of blue began to appear in the sky, and by the 10 a.m. start time the sun managed to break through and give the cars a boost.
Last night Justin Dobrynski replaced S&T's battery protection circuit, and there was still a blown fuse to deal with before the Miners finally got on the track some 15 minutes behind the starting group. SMVII's debut didn't go well at all, as the car broke down at the first turn. You can see the official race standings here but it doesn’t look good for the team from Rolla.
We still have a day and a half to go, so stay tuned to see how this works out.

It’s Gonna Be A Slow Race……..

Rain swept through central Indiana overnight, but heavy, low clouds have taken over the skies. We may see some sun this afternoon, but tomorrow calls for morning showers and afternoon storms.
Here’s something you may not realize about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway……….
It’s not just a race track; it’s more like a big festival grounds. Balloon glows, half-marathons, a “mutt strut”, and all kinds of non-automotive “people” events. Visitors can even take a bus ride around the track.
Very cool place to visit, and the Indy Zoo is not far away.
Definitely put this place on your “bucket list”.

Top Ten Updates From The Brickyard!

1. “Ma” Letha made so much spaghetti that the Miners could feed the entire Iowa State team, and still have some left over. An Iowa State driver responded with a fist-pumping “YES MISSOURI S&T!!!!” as if they hadn’t eaten real food in days
2. At one point today eight of the eleven cars were back in the cold pits trying to work out “issues”
3. Only Northwestern, Illinois State and Minnesota were counting laps, so there were more corner workers than cars.
4. The weather today? Gorgeous!
5. The weather tomorrow? Rain showers in the morning
6. Chief electrical engineer and team leader Justin Dobrynski worked out the hiccup in the battery protection system that kept them out of today’s running
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7. Northwestern’s solar car advisor builds race cars, and has jumped in at every chance to help S&T solve their handling and braking problems.
8. With Northwestern’s help, and a long night of technological magic from Rayco Machine Engineering Group, Inc., Missouri S&T cleared the dynamic test hurdle, and is set to run the track all day tomorrow
9: S&T students who had to finish six final exams on the road, did!
10. A Discovery Channel video crew spent most of the day interviewing drivers, shooting cars on the track, and capturing the atmosphere of the most important race* ever held in Indianapolis.
*Not really, but that’s what one grinning solar racer asked us to say.

Solar Miner VII LIVES!!!!

SC5:5DSC_1000.jpgLike the mythical Phoenix bird, the Miners have risen from the ashes of their own funeral pyre!
Here’s how things worked out late yesterday:
The team started calling Indy-area machine shops right around closing time, hoping to find anybody who could help. The first firm to even consider helping out (after quitting time, remember?) was Rayco Machine Engineering Group, Inc., a small family-run operation. Owner Greg Cox listened to the pitiful tales of woe, and said, “Sure! Come on over. It shouldn’t take but an hour, and will only cost X.”
CoxDSC_0979.jpgAfter double- and triple-checking the price Richard Dalton and Dan Leafblad arrived at on Rayco’s doorstep around 6 p.m. to show Greg the dilemma. Greg and design engineer Mark Bendit even came up with a better way to rebuild the kingpin spindle, using higher-grade steel and eliminating the need for welds. The resulting parts were easier to make, stronger, and best of all, done. During all of this redesign effort Greg’s wife Angi said “I’m going out for dinner.” What she didn’t say that she was bringing food back for the whole crew, including Dan and Richard. The Cox family not only salvaged S&T’s solar car race, and treated our guys to dinner in the process, but they wrapped all this up around 1 a.m.
Greg obviously enjoys working in the shop, was extraordinarily professional (and friendly) and produced an assembly many times better than the original.
Now that’s the way to get life-long admiration!
Back to the car, a bleary-eyed crew had the car back together around 3:00 a.m., and was back in dynamic testing only five hours later!SC5:5SUN_9940.jpg
They still have to modify Solar Miner VII to improve braking, and late this morning a power supply problem raised its ugly head, so they’ll re-tackle dynamic testing this evening and be ready to hit the track in the morning.

It’s 36 Degrees Right Now………….

…………so we’re going to need all the solar power we can get today.
That is all.