The Solar Car Competition is a very ambitious and rigorous technical challenge with innumerable engineering hurdles to be overcome. This is especially for us, as we are a first-year team with little existing knowledge base to draw from. Therefore, it is invaluable to learn from the experiences of other high school teams who have come before as well as the skills and know-how of industry professionals and mentors. This task is so critical that many members of our team have dedicated themselves predominantly to research, gathering information and people with the right expertise to ensure that our design process is as smooth and as smart as possible. The research process takes many forms, ranging from preliminary fact-finding – which aims to conceptually understand the commonly held design processes for various subsystems such as lighting or braking – to leveraging industry networks to consult and review our designs with experts.
Most recently, the focus of research has been on aerodynamics and solar panel mounting. These are both subsystems which are far from being designed and implemented, however, by establishing a foundational understanding now, we hope to make the final design and manufacturing process far more expedient. To this end, we have set up several meetings with aerodynamicists from Boeing to create an outline of the ideal aerodynamic skin shape to be used for a car of our proposed form factor, as well as the materials and manufacturing techniques with which to create the skin. We also plan to meet with structural engineers to consult with them on the designs we are putting together for a solar panel mounting system in anticipation of our new panels’ imminent arrival.
Research continues to be the vanguard of our design process, laying the critical foundation upon which all future efforts are based. As we make further strides toward a competition ready vehicle, research will continue to play a vital role in broadening our team’s collective understanding and abilities.