ISU’s solar car has sunny future outlook
Illinois State University’s solar car team has a sunny outlook on this year’s competition.
“This is the solar car the team always wanted,” said team leader Nick Reichman of Crystal Lake, a graduate student in project management.
The team is doing the final assembly on this year’s car, a combination of old and new, before heading east later this month for the Formula Sun Grand Prix and the American Solar Challenge.
“We’re using the top half of an old car with a new chassis on the bottom half,” explained Jim Dunham, a model maker at ISU who works with the team.
The carbon fiber composite chassis is a much lighter design and more efficient than the metal frame chassis the team has used in the past, said Dunham and Reichman. The car also has new hub motors that Dunham described as “top of the line.”
“We should be fairly competitive this year,” he said.
Reichman helped build the 2014 car that is part of the new one and said he is excited “to rebuild and re-engineer it” to overcome some shortcomings.
“I can’t wait until the car gets done,” he said.
The competition starts July 22 with four days of inspections and “scrutineering” to ensure the car is safe and meets technical requirements for the Formula Sun Grand Prix track race at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex in Wampum, Pa.
That will be followed by three days of track racing. The team with the most laps wins. The track race also is the qualifier for the 1,800-plus-mile American Solar Challenge road race.
Dunham said, based on previous races, the team probably will need to complete at least 200 miles on one day, or a total of 300 miles on consecutive days, to qualify for the road race.
The keys to success are having a reliable car that stays on the track, with minimal repairs or adjustments, and the ability to make needed changes quickly.
Reichman said a major strength of ISU’s team is how directly involved the students are in putting the car together.
“We’re a more hands-on team with our building tactics,” Reichman said. “We’re able to troubleshoot a lot of things more quickly than other teams.”
The road race takes place every other year and this year race organizers are partnering with the National Park Service, which is celebrating its centennial.
The road race will start at Cuahoga Valley National Park in Brecksville, Ohio, on July 30 and end at Wind Cave National Park in Hot Springs, S.D., on Aug. 6. Those two parks are among nine national parks, historic sites or partner properties along the route that covers seven states.
Twenty-four colleges and universities from the United States and Canada are expected to participate, including Northwestern University and Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.