Adapting to Unexpected Changes

Electrical System, Featured, General, Solar, Texas / Monday, March 7th, 2022

A few weeks ago, the Solar Car Challenge announced that the 2022 challenge would be transitioning away from a road race to closed-track race at a past venue, Texas Motor Speedway (TMS). While we were all a little disappointed in not being able to compete in a new format, we are still excited to go to a location that we are familiar with. However, we have recently been working towards some modifications that were specific to the road race. Two of them were the speed limiter and new trailer. A difference in the rules that presented a challenge for us when thinking about the road race was the inability to have or use the cruise control feature that had been implemented by the team for the 2021 race at TMS. Due to this, a few members of the team had begun developing and implementing a speed limiter, complying with the rules that allows the driver to have full control of the throttle with the pedals but would limit the top speed so that it could not exceed the optimal speed. With the transition back to the track race and the updated rules permitting cruise control, this system is no longer needed. 

Lucien Freemesser (11) works on wiring the new dashboard 

On the other hand, we have also been working on projects for the car that we are still planning to pursue for the upcoming solar car challenge. One of these improvements is our new solar array. Regardless of where and how the race is run, a solar array is absolutely necessary. Last year’s solar panels severely underperformed our expectations, so we decided to construct a new one this year; we have been working hard on it ever since. Its construction has been receiving tons of time, effort, and attention from not only our veterans and experts, but also our newer and younger members. We recently produced our first house-made 5×5 panel!

Opal Heltzel (11) solders the first working panel

Another of the other big projects that a few people on the team have been tackling is the full design and construction of a high-loading speed open-top trailer. The original idea for the use of the trailer was to be able to quickly get the car on it (still being able to charge) in case of potential areas where the car is unable to traverse. While the trailer is no longer needed, it could still prove to be useful in the future. Quicker car pick-ups could result in a lot of time saved. During testing days, this would mean less downtime if a car break down were to occur. During the race, this could mean that the car would be in the pits faster, allowing the team to work quicker and have more time.

Zach Olsson (10) works on the model of the new trailer

The sudden transition from the road race back to a track race has definitely affected us. However, we have not allowed that to slow down our progress; we are still full steam ahead on making it to Texas.

We are so excited about this year’s competition and can’t wait for July!

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