A Glimpse Into the Design of SOCKEYE

Design, Featured, General, Post of the Week / Tuesday, February 27th, 2024

In the coming weekends, we are hoping to start testing SOCKEYE in preparation for the race. Of course, this will rely on many extraneous factors such as weather, so it may take a few weeks. In the meantime, we are making some not-so-interesting final preparations. Instead of talking about that, let’s take a trip to the past and revisit just a few parts of SOCKEYE’s design that were overshadowed in last year’s blog posts.

“The Weapon”

Dubbed “The Weapon” within our team, a pokey carbon fiber spike sticks out the front of the frame of our car, though hidden by the aeroshell. Why did we add this? Surprisingly, it is not to sabotage enemy teams. 

The corners of our aeroshell are the strongest part, like I-beams in a building. However, the open space in front of the frame creates a flat plane, and while the plane is perfectly strong, it flutters in the wind. Realizing this, we added a perpendicular sheet of carbon fiber to stiffen the open plane in front of the car.

SOCKEYE without the weapon
SOCKEYE with the weapon

Why we didn’t core the aeroshell

Some may have noticed that the aeroshell of SOCKEYE is not cored, which means it is missing a stiffening structure such as foam or fiberglass hexagons like our frame has. There are many benefits to coreing the aeroshell, including a better crush zone and a stiffer structure. In fact, in our initial designs we planned to use foam-core in our shell. However, there is a rule in the solar car challenge that states that, since we are using composite materials in our safety cell and crush zones, we must provide destructive testing to prove the composite material is safe. 

We realized it would be easiest to avoid running destructive tests on our own composites, and decided to only test the material in the frame of the car. Because of this, we could not claim that the aeroshell acted as a crush zone. Instead of coring our aeroshell, we added carbon fiber panels as additional crush structure. This way, we could achieve the same amount of crash-protection (as a cored shell) while making the car easier to build and still lightweight.

SOCKEYE’s uncored shell
Instead of coring the shell, we added crush structure

Fiberglass vs. carbon fiber in our canopy

Have you ever noticed the plastic bands on the edge of your phone? Those are for the antenna, which gets easily blocked by the conductive frame. Carbon fiber is also conductive, and we can’t even put a speaker in the car without breaking the signal. Electromagnetic communication is vital to our radios and telemetry systems, so we had to let go of the carbon fiber in at least one location for our antenna. That location was right behind the roll bar, and we used fiberglass in the majority of our canopy because of it. In an effort to make the canopy as stiff as possible, we reinforced certain sections with strips of carbon fiber.

We used a mix of fiberglass and carbon fiber in the canopy

There are many decisions that went into the creation of SOCKEYE that were left out of the blog posts in favor of big build projects like the suspension, mold, or aeroshell as a whole. And there are even more to be shared!

But, back to today, we are almost ready to collect more data and test SOCKEYE in preparation for the 2024 Solar Car Challenge. Stay tuned for that!

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