No, Shih didn’t have an overwhelming premonition, and he didn’t find an omen hidden in his breakfast cereal. During his first trip to the UMR campus, however, Shih saw the solar car team’s billboard – a large sign near Interstate 44 – and from that moment on, “I was hooked,” he says.
A graduate student in computer engineering, Shih has worked over a year on the solar car, and currently acts as the team’s chief strategist. “I use factors such as road condition, car performance, driver performance and weather to predict how much solar energy we expect to use in the car, and how fast to travel to maximize that energy. I also devote much of my time to building the solar car.”
In fact, Shih spent most of his summer months working 40 to 60 hours per week on Solar Miner V, the seventh car built by the UMR Solar Car Team. “It gives me a great sense of satisfaction,” he says. “I love watching raw materials transform into a working solar car. Nothing in the books will teach the experiences learned in the actual application of a process. You have to physically do it.”
Creating a car that runs only on solar energy may not be an easy task, but Shih looked forward to putting the car to the test in the 2005 North American Solar Challenge, a 2,500 miles race from Austin, Texas to Calgary, Alberta, that tests the endurance of solar-powered cars from several universities. The UMR Solar Car Team won the race two times, breaking records with their results in the last race in 2003, and placed fourth in this year’s race.
“We will learn from our mistakes and successes to perfect our solar car,” says the self-described perfectionist.