The Hill Of Death Eats Solar Cars

HOPD1DSC_0149HOD2DSC_0154_2Problem #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. The problem is Pit Lane is lower than the track and the slope starts sooner (and shallower) for cars already running at good speeds. A few unlucky teams had to use the “all hands on deck” plan to push their cars up the hill. On the other side of the coin is the new entrant from Iran, which has fielded a compact, four-wheeled screamer that just vaults up the hill. They’ve got a simple, inexpensive array mounting systems that has us saying “That’s genius! Why didn’t WE think of that?!”

Problem #2: It’s been cloudy all day.

#1 plus #2 equals real trouble for most teams

NEWS UPDATE!!! SMVIII just passed battery protection, the last hurdle before track time! That makes this trip a success with two days still to go. A long time coming!

It’s been four years since S&T managed to qualify for, let alone pass dynamics (see previous post), and they did that today. At day’s end they’ve healed their achilles heel and are bound for the track.

And that, Gentle Readers, is MINER PROUD!

Letha And The Beetle

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 warden, master chef, support van driver, and all-round great friend. And worthy adversary to a very stubborn beetle.

No YouTube video could ever capture the scene. Letha’s clean-up crew was sweeping up the garage when a large beetle emerged from some boxes. Letha took the broom and “guided” the beetle toward the door, giving it a final push well out into the pit lane. When the little hardshell finally stopped tumbling end-over-end he indignantly righted himself and headed right back to the garage as fast as his six legs could carry him.

As soon as he hits the threshold, Letha’s broom boots him some 20′ back out to the concrete, with the same results. This time Mr Beetle figured a diagonal approach might get him back under the cardboard so he headed for the corner. Nope.

By now students from two racing teams join the beetle-soccer game. No one wanted to step on the determined little critter, so they eventually grew tired of the game. By now Mr. B is probably back where he started.

Such is a day in the garage.


Today our great friend John Tyler celebrated who-knows-how-many-years on this earth.

He’s been everything to this (and every) design team. Water Jet Jedi, chauffeur, mechanic, mentor, cheer leader, cookie monster, friend, soldering demon, inventor, you name it. He’s been a champion of UMR/S&T solar cars for 20 years and it’s fair to say this team couldn’t have done without his guidance, patience and good humor.
John can’t be here in Texas this year, but we miss him terribly. The Solar Miners are planting his name on Solar Miner VIII in his honor.

hagrid-1p.s. Don’t know John? Your loss! He’s the Missouri Wizard, identical twin to, and inspiration for, fellow wizard Rubeus Hagrid.

That makes S&T students, staff, and faculty the luckiest people this side of The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Live long and prosper, John!. There’ll always be a place on the team for you!

“We Thought Today Would Be Horrible!”

……….expressed a relieved Miner FSAE team member late today, but the day’s outcome was much better than feared.

Not better than expected, because they didn’t come in thinking they’d fail, but with FSAE Lincoln being the season wrap-up they wanted to do well. Some just spent too much time worrying about what might go wrong. At day’s end the S&T #3 car had passed tech, tilt table, the muffler sound test (which stymied them for a while in Michigan), and every other possible challenge available to them.

RuleofthirdsSUN_8293They were delighted to get some time on the practice track “scrubbing” a new set of tires, and a quick study shows that S&T Racing’s car is handling beautifully. Fast, tight, accurate, and problem-free. Good news for tomorrow.
Bad news for the other top teams.

In the morning it’s acceleration, braking, skid pad and a host of other dynamic events, wrapping up with the afternoon autocross event. The threatened storms are well off to the east so tomorrow’s weather looks great. Slight chance of storms for Saturday’s all important endurance race.

Two-Week Hiatus for Student Competitions

That DOESN’T mean things are quiet*

The Design Center’s trucks, trailers and vans are getting some much-needed rest and maintenance. Steel Bridge, Concrete Canoe, Human-Powered Vehicle (twice) and Advanced Aero Vehicle (also twice) have been on the road from Orlando to the San Francisco Bay area and points in between.

We often say there’s a whole lot more to engineering than just engineering. Time management and logistics are equally important in the process of global product development. Students must understand the difference between price and cost. They must weigh the cost of airline tickets vs. fuel, food, and lodging for a grueling two-day road trip and time away from class is a huge issue. Think “Penny Wise and Pound Foolish.”
CRSUN_3926The Human Powered Vehicle team spent weeks debating whether to fly or drive to the West Coast. They evaluated the trip’s costs of time, safety, and risk and decided to fly. Design center director Chris Ramsay did the driving honors, stopping along the way to meet with some friends of the university and to change a tire and see a few sights along the way. Hauling all their gear let the remaining fourteen students arrive fresh and ready to compete, kept them from missing many classes, and the design center vans didn’t smell like a restaurant dumpster.

*Steel Bridge is improving their bridge and rehearsing for the Nationals, and Solar Car is finally getting some miles on the new vehicle.

Just Another Weekend at the Office




Peter 3SUN_3470


With a guest appearance by Batman, the Flying Squirrel……….

Former Big 12 Schools Participate in SAE Aero West

The Texas A&M Aggies……

Sharing S&T’s hanger, Mizzou

Just Another Saturday Morning In Rolla

Parade Court_MHW3415
……………in which months of pent-up cabin fever explode in oceans of green. After(?)* the roughest winter in over 20 years the annual “Best Ever” St. Patrick’s Parade was the perfect, if brief antidote. Warm enough for the party atmosphere, almost too warm for the mandatory wearing of the St Pat’s sweatshirts, but perfect for the debut of S&T’s reworked Solar Car and its proud Solarcar1_MHW3485builders.

The as-yet-unnamed car is sleeker than previous Miner racers that have cruised the racetracks and highways of North America. The 2014 American Solar Challenge, slated for mid-July, will take a due-north track from Austin, Texas through Wichita, Kansas before taking a gradual north-east swing to end in St. Paul, Minnesota. There’s still a lot of work to do on this solar speeder; the team is young and short on race experience, the untested platform has, as yet, no road miles behind it, so they’ll likely chart a cautious course and build their confidence while they build a capable car.

*24 hours later Pine Street was blanketed by three inches of sleet and snow. Welcome to Missouri!

The Miners Are Back In The Solar House Business!

Dateline: California, U.S.A

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon will return to Irvine, California in 2015, and the Missouri S&T Miners will again be part of that net-zero neighborhood!

Based surely on the success of the Orange County Great Park site, the announcement came out of California today that 20 universities will set up a thriving, albeit temporary, community on a converted Marine Corps airbase runway. The Miners, veterans of five of the six previous events, are masters at logistical planning and have developed the “Nest House” to be easily and inexpensively hauled the 1900 miles to Southern California.

The biannual event lists a surprising 12 new teams to the mix, along with Missouri S&T and seven other experienced groups. We’re glad to see the State of Missouri is sending two teams westward, as Crowder College is partnering with Drury University. S&T and Crowder have a great relationship; several Crowder grads have transferred to Rolla and been active on previous solar house designs, especially the highly-regarded 2005 home.

The Design Team Experience

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As student design teams go, so goes life. Especially if you are working on your own plumbing.