At the beginning of this race cycle, I was not a team lead. I was the only person who was a part of the old team and did not take on a team lead role in the new team. Why? I didn’t feel like I knew nearly enough about any of the technical subsystems of the car to be able to complete one. I haven’t done much work on the last car (B-7) in general – just a little bit on the electrical side. But I stuck around because the work that I had done was absolutely worth it and I wanted more. Then, a few months into the cycle, Zhe asked me what I thought of his idea.
Zhe’s idea was that our team could really have an impact on our community – and beyond. He thought that in addition to building the next solar car, we can educate the public, get noticed, and make a difference in how people think about sustainable technology. Zhe asked if I would be interested in taking on that role on the team – and I was definitely down for it.
You see, building a solar car is awesome. It still amazes me of what our group of undergraduate students can accomplish. But what’s even cooler is getting the word out to others. It’s only when you take the beast (B-7) out for show that you realize how little sustainable technology is understood by the public. This becomes apparent when the questions asked by kids are the same questions asked by adults: is it a boat? How fast does it go? Does it take off the ground? Do you think these will be driving in the streets one day? Can I buy one?
Of course, I answer these questions, making sure to explain the tremendous implications of developments in sustainable technology. Many are surprised to learn that the solar car can run indefinitely, as long as there is sunshine. The idea of sustainable technology right here, in front of their eyes, is just too mind-boggling for many people. There isn’t nearly enough of it around us for people to get used to it.
It’s also something that gets me to reflect every once in a while. I’m used to dropping by the shop almost every day – perhaps to answer some emails over lunch – and seeing B-7 in all its glory. In fact, I am so used to it that it becomes ordinary and I forget what this thing really is. It’s not a boat and it’s not a plane, but it’s definitely more than just a solar car. It is our vision for the future and a testament to the hard work put in by the team to bring this vision to life. It is our effort to bridge the gap between sustainable technology and the people it benefits.
If this is what we can accomplish right now, only imagine what we will be capable of in a few years.