New Year, New Team Updates!

Drumroll… We have officially begun fabrication!

As of today, we are officially one week into fabrication! Over the past week, we were fortunate to be able to use the work space provided by Niagara Pattern to assemble the plug layout for our top aerobody. Our plug pattern consists of stacked MDF sheets supported by a plywood base, both were generously donated by Weston Premium Woods.

During this process, we were reminded again what a tremendously difficult task it is to complete a solar vehicle as we encountered numerous problems with material acquisition, faulty tolerances and logistics. We truly developed an appreciation for the manufacturing limitations on design as well as the power of meticulous planning.

And now let’s end with this photo to lighten up the mood.

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Aerodynamicist – Arthur Brown

Well, the summer is drawing to a close, and I wanted to take a moment to look at all of the progress we’ve made towards our next car. I’ve been spending almost every evening designing new Pressure Recovery airfoils to extrude into our aerobody shapes. We’ve had the computers running almost 24/7 running CFD analysis on our aerobody designs. The mechanical and electrical systems are being designed, we’ve done layout testing at Bombardier, and we’re learning the fabrication techniques we’ll need to build the car over the next year.

It’s been an amazing experience being part of this design team. Sure, it’s a lot of work it can occasionally be frustrating, but it’s great to actually get to apply the skills I learn in my courses to a practical engineering design problem. We get to use Excel, MATLAB, CATIA, ANSYS and a host of other software tools, and I feel like I am improving as an engineer every day.

It’s also great hanging out with the rest of the team. Last month, twelve of us left for three days, canoe camping in Algonquin Park. That was a much-needed holiday after the months of design work, and we all had a great time.

The fall semester is approaching fast, and we’ll all be buried in work once again. I know the road ahead will be long and hard, but just as the team proved with B7, we’ll get through it with a completed solar car and a trip to Australia. I can’t wait.

Arthur Brown, Aerodynamicist

Kshitij Gupta – Mechanical Team Lead

“Why make solar cars?” I have asked myself this question after working on the car for nights in a row, after lying to my parents that I’m studying for an exam what I’m actually fabricating the aerobody, after saying ‘No’ to ski trips with friends because it’s a Saturday (official Blue Sky work day), after spending weekends sleeping on a rickety chair for a year as I travelled to the city to work on the car.

Many friends in the solar car fraternity have tried to answer this question. Zhe Gong’s (Blue Sky) and Rachel Abril’s (Stanford) response has been “We do it because it challenging”. I do agree that driving at highway speeds across the continent of Australia using the same power as that of a microwave is challenging…. especially as a student team who designs, builds and races a world class solar car in their free time. This reason usually works as a motivator for most people I interact with. However, a manager in a major automotive OEM once asked me “Why do all this for – To remake a decade old design of an inverted wing with a few solar panels on wheels?”

For starters solar racing has evolved over time with solar cars becoming smaller, lighter and faster pushing the limits of the best technologies around. On a larger scale however I think we do it because it’s unpopular but important. We do it so that the dream of making humans a sustainable species is kept alive. A tangible example of this dream is that of the ongoing “Tesla revolution” which in-part was brought about by solar racing alumnus JB Straubel (Stanford Solar Car Project). Another example is our very own Tom Rodinger who started Nanoleaf and produced the world’s most efficient LED light bulb.

One could argue that the project has achieved its goals with the recent popularisation of electric vehicles. But I beg to differ. As of 2013 electric vehicles sales made for only 0.0006% of total car sales in the world. While another solar racing alumnus Chetan Maini (Michigan Solar car team) has been trying to start an electric revolution in the developing world; the difficult journey of making commercially successful inexpensive, non- luxury, standard electric vehicles still lies ahead.

I believe that solar racing acts as a cradle for forging individuals with mindsets bent on finding solutions to many such global issues pertaining to sustainability. The long, bitter- sweet process of making a world class solar car with limited resources toughens one to face challenges. The strong bonding amongst team members creates a social setting conducive to fearlessly taking on new challenges. While the “Blue Sky Thinking” and the resulting passion for creating a better future prepares one for perseverance.

Sure, the car itself might not be fully practical on its own but the heart of the project: development of individual members poised to make a difference is where its real value lies.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
― Margaret Mead

Mii Cheil Tan – Strategy Team Lead

Where is my flying car?

A hundred years ago, futurists back then envisioned that life in the 21st century would be a breeze. Here is a list of things people expected to have today in the transportation sector:

  • Flying Cars
  • Railroad ships
  • Mobile pavements
  • Aquatic cars
  • Locomotive buildings

It seems that out of the 5 listed, we have achieved roughly 3 (?) of them..

1.    Mobile pavements as the modern day escalators and travelators. Check.
2.    Aquatic cars as submarines. Check.
3.    Locomotive buildings as RVs maybe..?

That isn’t too bad, we are past the halfway point (assuming the hand waving point about 3 is accepted). However, you might be wondering “What does this have to do with solar cars..?”. Well the truth is, our solar car is secretly a flying car. No, I’m just kidding.

The point that I’m trying to make is this:

People back then didn’t predict that solar cars would exist within the next 100 years. The invention of a (working) flying car seemed more likely than a sustainable electric vehicle. Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? Here we are, a group of university students dedicated to the project that has produced not just a solar car, but several solar cars. Seven to be precise. Of course, this group alone didn’t design and build all seven cars, but the spirit of discovery and innovation has prevailed since the project was established in 1997. That’s 17 years now! Equivalent in age to a brooding adolescent.

The community of solar car racing is a significant factor to the project’s evolution over time as the involvement with other groups dedicated to sustainable design on a global scale is an invaluable exposure that (in my opinion) can’t be achieved to the same extend as the usual classroom interactions can offer. The stark contrast between the project and school isn’t in terms of education, it’s the ability to change the course of history, one solar car at a time. The next time someone asks for a flying car, tell them that you found something even better.