Today was the first day of the final two-day stage. We stopped for the night right outside of Waverly, Iowa. The day was partly cloudy on both ends and we couldn’t see the sun in the middle. We also visited Iowa State University, the home of PrISUm Solar car team, for a checkpoint! The checkpoint was fun because there were solar power exhibits and booths for adults and children alike to learn about solar power, charge their phones off of the sun, and build small solar cars! In addition, there were enough people there to make a large cheer as each team entered and exited the checkpoint!
We were rolling along at around 40 mph yesterday due to the weather conditions, so we got passed a lot on the highway. If the caravan has more than six cars piled up behind it, it has to pull to the side and let traffic pass. If the caravan pulls onto the shoulder and then the chase driver waves them past, we don’t have to lose much speed. Traffic dumps were pretty common yesterday, as the speed limits were around 65 mph.
There were no breakdowns today, and there was no down-time. The team is pleased that the car is rolling so smoothly, but we are still prepared to jump out and fix any flat tires or issues that occur. Wish us luck to finish the race without any stops during race time!
Despite the cloudy weather during the day, it cleared up around 6:00 pm when we stopped for nightly charging. We got in a good charge and then headed over to a Chinese buffet where everyone filled up on chocolate milk, fried rice, egg rolls, and chicken.
We would like to thank our sponsor of the day, Sunpower! Sunpower supplies the team with raw solar cells which we solder together and then encapsulate at 3M. The solar cells are grouped into sections of 8, 9, or 10 cells for easy soldering and assembly. The Solar cells are then attached to the top of the car and wired up to our power trackers which get the maximum power possible from the solar cells. For the entire race we have never charged off of the electric grid, even on the rest day! We charged the car off of the sun to fill up our battery before the race. We essentially have infinite MPGes for Centaurus III! Thank you Sunpower, your solar cells are efficient and makes our car truly one-of-a-kind!
Arlo was happy when the sun peaked through the clouds in the middle of the day and our array power increased dramatically, even if it was only for 10 minutes.
Jake enjoyed the Chinese buffet.
John was driving lead and squealed tires for the first time leaving quickly when stoplights turned green!
Graham liked when PrISUm solar car arrived at ISU and the driver jumped out. The first thing he said was “Hi Mom!” Toni also enjoyed the checkpoint, especially seeing the flexible solar cells.
Nick Sloan enjoyed playing cone toss with the team while the car was charging this evening.
Everyone on the team was pleased to meet an alumni who worked on Borealis III, Mike Couch! It was nice to meet him and hear about Borealis III!
Ethan enjoyed being Navigator and getting to relay John’s Jokes to the caravan. “Why couldn’t Jimmy ride a bicycle?” “Jimmy was an apple.”
Nick Bower enjoyed driving chase, though it was stressful at the end when we were deciding where to stop for the day.
Thank you for all of your support, see you in Minneapolis on Monday!
This morning began with a good charge, and ended with us maintaining second place behind the University of Michigan. This was a one-day stage, so we completed the run from Overland Park, KS, to Omaha, NE, in a little over six hours. We opted to change out drivers before arriving in the city. Drivers can be in the car up to six hours in a single day, which is enough to toast anyone in this sun, and we wanted to be sure not to exceed that limit. A driver change or any breakdown would be difficult to deal with in the city of Omaha.
The weather today was partly cloudy on both ends and clear in the middle. Tomorrow is predicted to be overcast, so we are saving some battery power for tomorrow. We also enjoyed some nice tailwinds from the south, which allowed us to increase our target speeds.
We would like to thank our sponsors of the day, the Coffeys! Tyler Coffey is an alumni of the team and has helped us to cut out the vinyl logos for the exterior of some of our vehicles. His father, Roger Coffey, came to the stage stop in Omaha Nebraska and was waiting in the heat with iced Gatorade and water, special K bars, and chocolate chip cookies! Mr. and Mrs.Coffey also took us all out to eat at a local restaurant, the Mattress Factory. It was delicious and we were very grateful to see some familiar faces and get some good food in our systems! Thank you!
Mason and Nick are proud at their tire-changing prowess, completing the nightly tire-change in record time!
Arlo enjoyed arriving and finding surprise refreshments from the alumni! Luci also liked Roger Coffey bringing cookies for the team!
Jake was the navigator today, and his highlight was when we navigated past the University of Michigan about 10 minutes into the race. They passed us on the highway, but we were ahead of them for a while during city driving.
Nick Sloan was proud that our team finished the stage within 25 minutes of the University of Michigan. This is less than other stages of the race!
After four uneventful hours of driving we arrived without problems in Overland Park, Kansas. We finished the stage in second place, coming in about an hour and a half behind the University of Michigan. Iowa State University rolled in about an hour after us. The sky was much clearer than expected with no clouds in sight for end of day charging, so we ended the day with a lot of power.
Today we passed through a large portion of Kansas which consisted of gently rolling hills, cows and hay bales. We passed through our observer’s hometown, so we learned a lot about the area and the hay bales. We also learned about the beginning of the American Solar Challenge, which started with the GM Sunrayce in 1991. For the first rayce, all of the observers were GM employees who were paid their full salaries during the rayce. In 1993 the organizers created a course on photovoltaic cells in which the students were given the option to be observers on the race and receive one credit hour. This is how our observer became involved in solar racing. In the first few rayces, there were over 30 teams competing and stage stops every night. The observers and teams would stay together in gymnasiums each night, sometimes sleeping on wrestling mats. One time our observer slept on the pole vaulting pits at an indoor track. Many of the observers return year after year, so it is very interesting to speak to them and learn about their backgrounds. Some are as young as members of our team, so it is nice to see that solar racing will stand the test of time.
After arriving at the stage stop, our team enjoyed grilled corn and fresh fruit provided by our scouting vehicle and enjoyed the nice weather on the Black and Veatch campus. There also was a pick-up game of soccer with members of most teams playing as well as some officials. We are now half way done with the race, wish us luck as we embark on the second half of our journey!
Today we would like to thank Delta for the generous use of their composites workspace. For each solar car, our team has milled molds and then laid-up carbon fiber or fiberglass parts in two molds, for the top and bottom of the shell. The parts are then glued together and cut apart at a new seam line. Each shell takes a minimum of four layups to complete, and each layup takes about 24 hours to fully cure. Delta has an autoclave which is large enough to hold our car molds. Using an autoclave, which is essentially a large oven for composite parts, ensured that our parts cured completely and in a timely manner. In addition to the use of their workspace, Delta has also donated lay-up supplies when our team ran out and has helped us to load our molds into their autoclave. Thank you Delta!
Arlo is proud that the electrical system is withstanding the vibrations, heat, and bumps that the solar car is experiencing.
Mason enjoyed driving the solar car, though there was a fly caught in the canopy.
Nick Bower enjoyed driving the scout vehicle 160 miles with a spare tire on it. We have been having trouble with tires. We’ve had two flat tires on support vehicles and one on the trailer.
Nick Sloan enjoyed our stopping location in Eureka and that it allowed us to actually get a full nights’ sleep!
Luci and many other team members enjoyed going out to eat after packing up for the night. The root beer floats were especially tasty.
Thank you for reading, and have a sunny day!
We are stopped for the night in Eureka, Kansas. We experienced no electrical breakdowns today, except for a blown fuse on the starting line of the stage. We started four minutes behind our starting position in the lineup. We started out fast, going about 50 mph, but ran into about three hours of clouds and had to reduce our target speed significantly coming into a checkpoint at the Wichita Aviation Museum.
However, the weather cleared up significantly once we reached the checkpoint. We pulled in about half an hour behind the University of Michigan, and we got in some good charging. We are also getting lots of rays tonight, as we are charging off of a cloudless sky. We managed to stop for the night in a parking lot across the street from a gas station, the hotel we booked for the night, a pizza hut, and a Sonic, so we were very satisfied with our stopping location! Tomorrow we will continue on to Overland Park, Kansas, for the stage stop. We are hoping for clear skies tomorrow, because the clouds significantly hurt our forward progress and were unexpected based on our source of weather. For the future, we will be diversifying and double-checking our weather prediction sources.
It is hard to quantify how wind will affect Centaurus III. The driver reported some gusts of wind from the side and we had a headwind for part of the time when the weather was overcast. Our fairings were flapping open in the gusts, both natural gusts and gusts produced by passing semi-trucks. Mechanical team completed a short pit-stop to fix the problem. The problem was mostly fixed by moving slower, but now the driver can pull on a rope which will close the fairing doors. This can be communicated over radio whenever the chase vehicle sees them flap open.
We would like to thank our sponsor of the day, Cirrus Aircraft. Cirrus builds personal airplanes and jets, and is located in Duluth, Minnesota. Their airplanes are made of large composite layups, just like our car. We would like to thank Cirrus Aircraft for the use of their mill and the time of their employees in programming it to cut the mold for our shell. It is hard to find a mill that large and Cirrus is a very busy company, so we are immensely grateful that they were able to mill our molds. Our molds were made from high density foam and finished with paint, bondo, lots of sanding, and a final clear coat. Thank you to Cirrus Aircraft!
Everyone is in agreement that our stopping location for the night is ideal.
The Aviation Museum in Wichita was neat, team members wish we could have stayed longer to see all of the displays, but we had to continue on the race!
Arlo also enjoyed the checkpoint, because there were about 20 elementary-aged children watching and excited to see the solar cars!
Steph and the rest of electrical team is happy we did not have to pull over for any electrical issues!
Luci Baker and Mason Trang would like to thank the Montreal Solar Car team for $5. Luci and Mason were driving the Truck and Trailer along the truck route and ran into a toll road. Thankfully, the Montreal team was close behind them and lent them the toll. Luci would like to also thank PrISUm Solar Car team because they were on their way to an ATM to get cash after Luci and Mason called for help, before Montreal was able to get them through the gate!
Stay tuned for more updates!
Driving began after a fuse blown on our lights board was quickly replaced by electrical team and ended, after an uneventful drive, in Norman, Oklahoma. It is very hot here! We have been spraying our solar array with deionized water, because when the water evaporates it cools the solar cells. Solar cells operate more efficiently at lower temperatures, so we were able to gain some extra power from this effort!
We are currently in second, behind the University of Michegan and followed closely by PrISUm Solar Car. It is still a close race, as the top three finishers from the stage came in within an hour of each other.
Our total elapsed time for this segment of the race was 12:43:47. The next stage of the race is also a two-day stage, beginning in Norman and ending in Overland Park, Kansas. The first day of two-day stages consists of 9 hours of driving, which is a long day for the crew. However, depending on the weather, the team’s target speed, and the length of the stage, the second day usually ends earlier than the first. Our team rolled into an Oklahoma University parking lot in Norman at about 12:30 pm. This allowed us to have time to take naps and time to eat lunch, after charging for half an hour. Teams then charged from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, to keep the race fair.
Thank you to our sponsor of the day, Altium. The team uses Altium to design the schematic and layout of electric printed circuit boards, or PCBs. The University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project is proud that almost all of the circuitry on the car is student-designed and student-built. Without Altium, this would not be possible. In addition to designing and building all of their circuit boards, our electrical team writes the software that runs on the microcontrollers and tests their circuitry on the road. Electrical team is what makes the car move! Thank you, Altium!
It was an uneventful day after we began driving, and everyone is pleased with that.
Everyone was pleased with how early we completed the stage, and the ice-cold water that was handed out by the officials.
Arlo and Mitch, electrical team members, got to take a long nap in air conditioning.
Many mechanical team members greatly enjoyed shakes and food from Sonic.
We would like to thank both Iowa State University and Western Michigan University for giving us 1 Amp fuses. We are blowing them a lot and are thankful for their generosity, as we are running alarmingly low. Good luck to everyone on the race!
Wish us luck as we rayce the sun! Thank you for your support! Stay tuned for more posts about each day of the race!
Our starting position was fifth in a lineup of ten cars, and we started ASC 2014 at 9:04am. With a total downtime of 20 minutes for electrical repairs, the team is making good progress. We stopped for the night in Bowie, TX. Tomorrow we will finish the stage to arrive in Norman, OK. We are in the race for the top positions with Iowa State University, Pincipia, and the University of Michigan, who is currently in first place. All of us arrived at the stage stop in Wetherford Texas within 30 minutes of each other, so it is indeed a very close race!
On our day of rest, we worked hard to prepare backup circuit boards, organize our supplies, and prep our support vehicles. This paid off today, as we had no issues we could not quickly and easily solve. Our team worked well together in their race crew positions to minimize downtime, and the weather was sunny, which always helps!
For those of you who are new to solar car racing, the American Solar Challenge is a staged race. This means that we have to make it to certain cities by a certain date to continue racing. Once we reach those locations, we are done for the day besides charging the battery off of the solar array. There are also control stops, which the officials use to keep tags on all the teams. Control stops consist of a total of half an hour of solar charging and half an hour of rest. Teams must make it to control stops within a certain time frame, or else then will likely not complete a stage of the race.
We would like to thank our sponsor of the day, PAR Systems, for their help in cutting our chassis. Our chassis is made of fiberglass panel, which is a sandwich of fiberglass sheets and Nomex honeycomb core. The chassis is how all mechanical components are integrated into the car, and we would like to thank PAR for helping us cut out the shapes needed to make it!
Please look for the ASCsolarracing #ASC2014 and our UMNSVP twitter feeds for updated information. Otherwise, we will continue to update this blog when time permits!
The team was proud to see Centaurus III lined up with all of the other solar cars on the starting line! We are one of ten world-class solar car teams!
Everyone is proud of the progress we have made, and how efficient and organized our pit stops have been. They are the best ones yet, and we are working well together as a team!
The final day of the Formula Sun Grand Prix began with us arriving to a wet pit. There had been a battery charging overnight which unfortunately caught fire. The Circuit of America’s track had excellent fire protection in their pits and the fire did not spread. We were lucky that Centaurus III was covered with a tarp, as that prevented it from getting wet. However, much of our supplies and some of our circuitry was out in the smoke and water, and was damaged. The officials delayed the start of the race, and teams unaffected by the fire helped us to move out, clean, and then move our supplies into another pit. We were very thankful for the help, as our pit was drenched. Things held in cardboard boxes had to be put into plastic ones.
We began charging, and plugged in a circuit board that had been in the fire and then had been cleaned. This board caused a lot of the circuitry on our car to malfunction. We still do not know the source of the issues, but managed to fix it in time to get on the track. Due to the delayed start, the officials decreased the number of laps necessary to qualify for ASC. However, due to a breakdown on the track in the last hour, we were unable to legitimately complete the required number of laps. Only three teams qualified legitimately. The officials met and discussed handicaps to apply to all of the teams. Overall, ten teams will be racing in ASC.
In the meantime, Aero team did lay-ups on parts for our fairings from Stratasys! They are lighter than the current parts and have holes in the proper places for the new parking brake calipers! We would like to thank Stratasys, our sponsor of the day, for their continued support by supplying 3D-printed parts, this time just in time for ASC! Stratasys also printed our ventilation ducts for the drivers and all of the battery holders and prototype parts to check fitting. Thank you Stratasys!
After FSGP, there was a dinner and awards ceremony on the Campus of the University of Texas. Our team tied for third overall with Western Michigan University. We were both affected by the fire, and are proud to have made it to the podium!
Though the team was saddened to find parts for the car and personal laptops, phones, and cameras soaked with water, everyone was impressed with the response of the officials, the track staff, and other teams for their quick, thoughtful, and thourough job cleaning up the pits after the sprinklers had gone off. We would like to thank them for their time and efforts, which also helped us get back on the track! We would like to thank PrISUm solar car team from Iowa State University for lending us their power sully and the use of their generator to debug our electrical system. Also, we would like to thank SIUE for the use of their tools and supplies to replace our secondary pack. Thank you everyone for the help! See you on the rayce!
We are proud to stand next to the University of Michigan, Oregon State University, and Western Michigan University on the podium! We put in our best efforts and it paid off. In addition, qualifying for the American Solar Challenge was a major highlight, because we did not make the official number of laps required.
Stay tuned for more updates, and wish us a sunny rayce!
The team completed 53 laps today by minimizing down-time and maximizing efficient driving practices. This leaves us with a total of 86 laps, only 4 short of qualifying for the American Solar Challenge (ASC) today. We will need a minimum of 37 laps tomorrow to meet the requirement of 90 laps over two days, and it looks like the sun might show itself. We are currently in 2nd place overall for the Formula Sun Grand Prix (FSGP) and placed 2nd for the day! Despite the overcast weather we are still getting power from the array.
We qualified two drivers today – Michael Ellis and Graham Krumplemann. We were pleased to see more teams pass scrutineering and join us on the track. It will be a quick-paced race tomorrow to qualify, because the University of Michigan is the only team currently qualified to race in the American Solar Challenge. Check here for the current standings. We received one penalty lap Thursday due to pushing the car up the large hill at the start of the track when it didn’t get enough of a running start.
The electrical team experienced two minor failures today and acted quickly to rectify them. The first problem stopped the car on the track. In less than 10 minutes, the team assessed the problem, drove out to the car in a rescue vehicle, and replaced a faulty battery protection board. The second failure was a fuse, and also stopped the car on the track. That was easily replaced in a similar timeframe. In addition, the horn was working off and on, which has been frustrating to the drivers who must honk to pass any car on the track. This problem has now been solved.
Mechanical team practiced quick tire changes in the hot pits today. A tire change for both front wheels requires about seven people. Tire changes truly are a team effort. Four people are required to lift the top shell from the vehicle, one person operates our jack, and two people change the tires. On this track, at the current target speed, we need to change tires once a day to avoid blowing a flat. This saves time, because the track is three miles long, and it would take a long time to transport all the people and supplies to repair the flat.
We would like to thank our sponsor of the day, PTC, for their continued support. Our vehicles are designed with the help of PTC Creo, a CAD software which allows us to easily modify our designs. The aerodynamic shell of Centaurus III is an enormous part of what allows us to keep driving on such an overcast day, because it minimizes energy used to drive. In addition to aerodynamic drag, the car suffers both mechanical and electrical losses which account for a smaller portion of energy loss at cruising speeds. PTC Creo allows us to neatly and easily package all of the components of a working car inside of our shell, and we make both parametric and moving assemblies to see how things work and interact with each other. Thank you PTC!
Kee Onn found a footbridge that crosses over part of the track. The majority of the track is visible from that vantage point. Someone will be placed there with a radio tomorrow to inform the drivers of upcoming obstacles.
Arlo is proud of his team for the rapid repair of battery module 19. He is very pleased that the car was back on the track within 10 minutes of the failure! Steph is also proud of this feat – especially for how prepared electrical team was to fix the problem and how efficiently the solution was executed. Toni and Nick Bower also enjoyed helping with this repair, and standing on a new part of the track and watching the solar cars coast past.
Mitch is happy to have fixed his PCB which controls Centaurus III’s horn. Ellis enjoyed driving along the straightaway and seeing the team in first place on the scoreboard. Graham is proud to have passed Michigan to take first place in the daily standings for a while, as well as cooking a delicious lunch. Jake was pleased to see our team first on the scoreboard for a large portion of the day!
Ethan talked to other solar car teams about their array stand designs and how they attached the solar arrays to them. Nelson enjoyed talking to other solar car teams about the design process and what works and doesn’t work when building a solar car. Nick Sloan also enjoyed the camaraderie between teams; especially the heated discussion about favorite slurpie flavors between our team, a race official, and Iowa State.
Bryan was pleased with the temperate weather, and the efficient driving today by Ellis in the morning.
Luci is glad to be here, and thinks that all of the solar cars are awesome!
Mason had fun with the double-tire change quickly and efficiently performed in the hot pits today. John enjoyed using AstroGlide to replace tires on the rims.
Stay tuned for daily updates, and check out our flickr account for more photos of the team!
The Formula Sun Grand Prix is a track race for solar-powered vehicles that spans 3 days. Teams are required to complete 60 laps in one day or 90 laps in two days to qualify for the cross-country American Solar Challenge. This year, the Formula Sun Grand Prix is on the Circuit of Americas Formula 1 track in Austin, Texas. We have successfully completed one day of racing with Centaurus III, and started on our second day. Our team has four drivers, and each driver must complete 15 laps on the track to drive in the American Solar Challenge.
After arriving in Texas, we have worked day and night to prepare the electrical system of the car. We have entirely replaced our electrical system, and are using this race to prepare the electronics for our next solar vehicle, which will race in the World Solar Challenge 2015. Our hard work has paid off, as the team started the race yesterday along with 9 other teams, and made it to the starting lineup again today.
Yesterday involved additional electrical debugging and a tire change for mechanical team. The electrical problems were solved by replacing a fuse in the battery pack and securing mechanical connections. We were back on our way after making the fixes. We completed a total of 33 laps and qualified two drivers – Alex Nelson and Mason Trang. In addition, we tested out our new array stand and got some light charging in in the evening.
The weather is not excellent for solar racing – but it could be worse. Our array is covered in a special coating from 3M which is excellent for capturing the diffuse sunlight produced during cloud cover. We had light sprinkles yesterday, with temperatures in the 80s. The sun peaked out occasionally. Today is very similar, with a light breeze coming through the pits. It hasn’t really rained during the day, but last night it rained cats and dogs and most of our tents leaked. We hope things dry out a bit today, as we are continuing to camp at McKinny Falls State Park.
A big thank you to our sponsor of the day, for the first day of the race, 3M! We would like to thank them for their continued support with raw supplies and solar array encapsulation. The top film on the encapsulation has small riblets which refract indirect light onto the solar cells. All of the cells on our car were connected by hand-soldered leads and carefully laminated between layers of EVA with a clear backing and the riblet film on top.
Everyone was cheering when we watched Centaurus III go up the hill on the first turn of the track, for the first time. We barely made it into the starting lineup, completing the dynamic braking test early in the morning before the race began, and ensuring that the electrical system was good to go!
Kee Onn, Nick Sloan, and the whole of Mechanical team are proud to have successfully changed two tires in under 10 minutes.
Bryan, team lead and crew chief, is proud that we were able to complete the last 28 laps of the race without an electrical breakdown and that the only down-time we had after fixing our battery problems was for the tire change and a driver change.
Arlo is pleased that the team managed to get almost 8 hours of sleep last night. And everyone is happy that we went out to eat as a reward for completing the first day of the race.
Stay tuned for more updates! Also, check out our Facebook account under University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project and our twitter account, under UMNSVP.
Last Friday(4/25) we had the opportunity to display Daedalus to over 2000 6-8th grade students at the University of Minnesota CSE Expo. We were one of more than 60 hands on, student built projects representing areas of science, technology, engineering, and math. Thank you to everyone who came out. Goldy the gopher even stopped in to try his hand at being a solar vehicle driver!