How many gallons of gas does it take to drive from Chicago to Los Angeles? If you are a member of the UMR Solar Car Team, you are more concerned about abundant sunshine and big hills.
On a cloudy January day, UMR graduate student Srinivas "Jak" Jakkidi arrived at the Mid-Continent Mapping Center, also in Rolla, to meet with U. S. Geological Survey cartographer Mike Kling to extract elevation data from the free USGS digital elevation model data sites.
Jakkidi, also a teaching assistant at the university and longtime member of the UMR Solar Car Team, will use the data to improve the performance of the university’s Solar Car entry for the American Solar Challenge, a biennial race from Chicago to Los Angeles. This year’s race is in July, and UMR’s entry, along with all the others, will stop in Rolla on July 14.
The UMR Solar Car placed second in the 2001 American Solar Challenge and won a similar race, Sunrayce ’99, two years earlier. According to Jakkidi, the data will be incorporated into a program to create an "elevation profile" to better utilize and anticipate energy use during the multistage race. The UMR Solar Car Team hopes that the elevation and terrain program along with other modifications will place them back in the winner’s circle.