A team of students from Missouri University of Science and Technology is about to embark on an 1,200-mile solar car race through the Midwest.
The American Solar Challenge starts June 20 in Broken Arrow, Okla., and ends June 26 in Naperville, Ill. Teams will be required to stop for the night in Topeka, Kan., on June 21, and in Rolla, Mo., on June 23. Otherwise, the cars go as far as they can until the racing day is over at 6 p.m. The students then hunker down until the next morning.
Other cities along the route include Neosho, Mo.; Jefferson City, Mo.; Alton, Ill.; and Normal, Ill.
Approximately 20 universities from the U.S., Canada, Germany and Taiwan are participating in the 2010 race.
Energy from the sun is used to power the cars’ batteries. In order to reach highway speeds, a solar car needs about as much energy as it takes to blow dry your hair in the morning.
Missouri S&T has won two championships in solar car racing, in 1999 and 2003. The 2010 vehicle, Solar Miner VII, is equipped with a $150,000 array of solar cells. The team was able to purchase the advanced cells after receiving an unexpected gift from the Alan and Patricia Goodding Family Trust. The family designated $845,000 specifically to help support the Missouri S&T Solar Car Team for years to come.
“Without this gift, the team was facing a decision of having to use less expensive cells at an efficiency of less than 20 percent,” says Paul Hirtz, interim director of S&T’s Student Design and Experiential Learning Center. “Competing with the top teams would have been next to impossible.”
Team member Andrew Sourk, who designed the frame and body of Solar Miner VII, says the vehicle weighs less than 350 pounds without a driver. The graduate student in mechanical and aerospace engineering has checked out the competition and is confident S&T will do well in the upcoming race.
“We stalk other teams hardcore,” says Sourk, who concedes the competitors also watch what his team is doing via a webcam that is mounted in the small design shop where the S&T car is being engineered.
In the future, the solar car team and other design teams from Missouri S&T will be housed in a renovated building that will give them 23,000 square feet of space to design and build vehicles and contraptions. The Kummer Student Design Center is scheduled to open next spring.
The following students are members of Missouri S&T’s 2010 Solar Car Team:
— Jeremy Clemens, a senior in electrical engineering from Branson, Mo.
— Justin Dobrynski, a sophomore in computer engineering from St. Louis
— Clinton Guenther, a senior in computer engineering from Marthasville, Mo.
— Christina Jung, a senior in engineering management from Rolla
— Adam Lewis, a senior in computer engineering from Higginsville, Mo.
— Cody Massar, a senior in engineering management from St. Louis
— David Mast, a senior in mechanical engineering from Rolla
— Merlin Nagel, an exchange student from FH Aachen University of Applied Sciences in Germany
— Emily Otto, a senior in mechanical engineering from Lee’s Summit, Mo.
— Justin Reynolds, a sophomore in mechanical engineering from St. Peters, Mo.
— Mocara Rice, a sophomore in mechanical engineering from Ashland, Mo.
— Andrew Sourk, a graduate student in aerospace engineering from St. Joseph, Mo.
— Tommy Tran, a senior in mechanical engineering from Branson, Mo.