We did it! During past three weeks Flux was tested, scrutinized, and pushed to its limits at the American Solar Challenge (ASC) 2018. After many stressful nights and over 1,700 miles of the Oregon trail driven, the finish line was crossed!

On the afternoon of July 3rd, some team members frantically packed up every tool and useful item we had in our shop at the Edgerton Center and we began the long drive to Hastings, Nebraska, with Flux securely loaded into our trailer. Only July 6th, the Scrutineering portion of the Formula Sun Grand Prix (FSGP) began at the Hastings Motorsports Park.  During this section of the event, we had to demonstrate and explain how our designs for Flux comply with the regulations for the competition as well as pass dynamic tests such as hard brake tests, the slalom and figure 8 tests. The event started out with a lot of confidence as we got ‘Greens’ for most of the required sections, however, it quickly turned to panic. What started out as a small manufacturing problem in our composites cascaded into problem after problem with our mechanical system. After three long (and I mean sleep in shifts kind of long) days, we were able to confidently pass the tests with greens across the board and a much nicer car than the one we arrived with. There is no better way to learn engineering than a better engineer tearing your work apart! Special thank you to the system inspectors with ASC for teaching us not only good engineering practices, but some life lessons along the way.

After the scrutineering portion of the event was completed, we moved on to the three day Track event, where we needed to complete either 96 laps in one day or 143 laps in two consecutive days to qualify for the American Solar challenge race.  On Day 1, it took less than 20 laps for us to realize our first problem. After a spinout (everyone is okay don’t worry) and a lot of tires consumed, we decided to stop for the day and problem solve. That was when we realized in all of our modifications, we introduced a bump steer of scary proportions.  After  many hours of brainstorming and some clever insight from inspector Bill, we were ready for the track again the next morning! Where the previous tires lasted a whopping four miles, after our fixes, we never had to change tires again during the race (and proceeded to run them 1700+ miles during ASC).  By Day 2 of FSGP, we had racked up enough laps to qualify for ASC and despite all the problems we encountered during scrutineering and FSGP, we placed 4th in the Single Occupant Vehicle Class!

On July 14th, the American Solar Challenge started in Omaha,Nebraska. We hoped it would be smooth sailing, but while the car ran like a dream, the weather was far from ideal.  The first few days of the race brought clouds, rain, storms to the streets. After leaving Casper WY, we had to pull over to the side and wait for the lightning of an oncoming storm to calm. Luckily we did so just in time for moments later, hail began pelting the tarped car as we sheltered from the wind in the lead and chase vehicles. Fortunately, Flux survived the storm with minor scratches and the sun carried us through the second half of the race in full force.

All in all, the race was an incredible experience for everyone on the team and an inspiration for the future of MIT SEVT. We found ourselves faced with some of the most beautiful, and bizarre, scenery mother nature has to offer along the route and were honoured to be  a part of such a wonderful race. We ended it all in Bend, Oregon, in 5th place and couldn’t be more proud.

Finally, we cannot express our gratitude to our generous sponsors and to everyone who made this happen. We are a small team of undergrads would never have reached this point without your help. A special thank you to our platnum sponsors: Edgerton Center, 3M, Ford, Altium, and Ansys. The resources you provide, both financial and material, allow us to be the best we can be. Additionally, thank you to ASC volunteers and all of the teams who participated in the race. We learned more than we could have imagined and will never forget the support and encouragement you provided.

Until next time,

MIT SEVT

Unbelievable scenery at Scottsbluff. PC Chris Pentacoff

Unbelievable scenery at Scottsbluff.
PC Ashisha Persad

Wendy checks to see if she can reach the windshield with her high-tech defogger. PC Chris Pentacoff

Wendy checks to see if she can reach the windshield with her high-tech defogger.
PC Chris R Pentacoff

Nothing says Solar Car like the fire of deadlines.  PC Chris Pentacoff

Nothing says Solar Car like the fire of deadlines.
PC Chris Pentacoff

Francis outlined from inside a magma tube and Craters of the Moon National Monument. PC Chris Pentacoff

Francis outlined from inside a magma tube at Craters of the Moon National Monument.
PC Chris Pentacoff