Aero Update

Regulations – Analogous to laws in the larger world, they are necessary to create a level playing field for all teams and to direct designs to be applicable to commuter vehicles. Back in June, the world solar challenge posted their new regulations for the 2013 race season, bringing forth a slew of changes. In terms of the aerodynamic design and general vehicle configuration, the major changes include a much stricter seating position, a larger field of vision, as well as requiring vehicles to have 4 wheels.

Given that the aerobody team had already worked out a preliminary design prior to the new regulations, the WSC announcement was met with a mixture of sadness and excitement. Sadness because there would still be much work ahead creating a new design, and excitement because the new regulations force all competing teams to stray from the traditional three wheel design and individually explore feasible solutions. This means that there is much more room for creative design, and hopefully many different configurations at the next race.

In terms of the new design, each of the regulation changes presents a different but not mutually exclusive challenge. For example, the four wheels is arguably the biggest change as the driver can no longer be seated with the single rear wheel, and the team must explore driver seating and aerobody configurations. At the same time, we must ensure that any configuration meets both components of the vision requirements i.e. that the driver’s head must be free to rotate 45 degrees in front and he must see in a cone around him.

The aero team has spent the last three months working in collaboration with the array and mechanical team to meet these challenges. We are close to a final design that will be sent to manufacturers in the coming month.

Electrical Team Update

A great milestone was achieved this past Saturday, when the barebones telemetry system was successfully tested in Azure. The radio, snooper/data logger, and battery monitoring system worked just as well in the car under driving conditions as they did on the bench. Radio range was tested to have already surpassed that of Azure’s, and the front-end graphical user interface which records and graphs the collected data performed very smoothly. From here on, new modules including accelerometers and the driver display will be added to telemetry and the whole system will undergo performance and safety optimization to ensure that our 7th generation vehicle will have the first fully working telemetry system in Blue Sky history.

On the power side of things, a new motor control setup is being tested. Saturday saw forward acceleration and regeneration braking in action, with reverse and cruise control to be added in the coming weeks. The power being drawn by the motor controller was not where we would like it to be, and tweaks will be made to overcome this. Optimization of this power system will give us a much better idea of how we should set up the new one.

Alongside our testing, the old NGM brushless DC motor which acted as the backup on the last race will be characterised this week in preparation for design of the new power system. More on that next time!

American Solar Challenge

After another week of working/summer school/researching, 13 Blue Sky members set off for Monticello, NY on Friday evening. Everyone is very excited about this 7-hr roadtrip because we were heading to check out the scrutineering for American Solar Challenge. There are many regional solar car races around the world, and the ASC is the race that our team has participated many times in the past. This year, we decided not to participate in ASC because we want to build a new car for WSC 2013 and we needed to focus all of our resources and efforts to realize that goal.

Though we are not racing this summer, deep down, we are all just a bunch of solar car enthusiasts who can’t stay away from the biggest solar car gathering in North America. Unlike many other student design teams on campus, we don’t have a lot of races to attend and our race cycle is two years. It’s hard for new members to experience the excitement of solar racing. Therefore we are glad to take many new members of the team to show them what solar racing is all about. The sound and sight of a solar car driving around a race track truly is the best catalyst for productivity.

Despite of getting lost a few times, we arrived at the Monticello Motor Club with guidance from Kentucky Solar Car Team. We quickly became absorbed in the many solar car teams present at the Motor Club. We greeted old friends, such as our neighbour from 2011 WSC, Principia and new friends. Talking with various teams about their design decisions, sharing solar car stories and offering a hand of help if needed. It was also very important for our design process for our new car to see the scrutineering procedures and the degree of precision that the ASC requires. Since we are hoping to compete in the 2014 ASC with our new solar vehicle, the lessons learned from observing will become very useful.


Electrical Team Update

It has been a month since I arrived in the solar car shop. I was informed in April that I would be embarking on a journey but I did not know where. “You will do great things, bring great satisfaction and joy to your new masters,” they said, as they stuck me on to a piece of epoxy laminate.

Life is not easy as an electron in the conducting energy band. I have no home atom and these humans sometimes link us up in the silliest ways, including across oceans! On the bright side, every new connection is a new experience. Most of us are never in one place for more than a few nanoseconds; humans just don’t know how to design ideal electronics.

My experience with this electrical team has had its ups and downs. The members seemed stressed out when I first arrived. The negative charges they carried kept repelling me away; it was quite tense whenever they came close. After about a week, however, things started to ease up. The team became neutral and, in some cases, positive toward us. I have personally been stuck onto the “Radio Module” PCB (printed circuit board), so I only really know about those around me. There are rumors flowing around that the “BMS” (battery monitoring system) board’s electrons are having glitch issues, and some of those on “Lights Driver” are not where they are supposed to be. I can only imagine that the team is working hard on fixing these issues, and that my incoming brothers and sisters will have a much better experience than those around me now.

During my stay here, I have also met many electrons who come from ICs (integrated circuits). Many of them are pretty normal, but there are some which come from a company called Texas Instruments who seem very nice and generous. They are always willing to flow toward the smaller potential side of things, no matter where they are coming from. The team members seem very happy about these electrons in particular. As I can’t feel like the humans do, it’s impossible for me to explain why. They don’t give preferential treatment when soldering, so it’s not a big matter for me. The humans also seem very excited about another group of electrons which come from Phoenix Contacts. I have heard that those guys are pretty unique because they were put into connectors and headers. I look forward to meeting them, as they also seem very nice and generous.

The time has come for me to go back to conducting. I have spent too much time ruminating about the workings of this electrical team. They are hard at work right now on new and old PCBs, teaching new members, and preparing to bench test the electrical system. I hope that all will go well.

Until next time,

Electron 92342358