Chopper is at Hidden Valley!!

We spent most of the daytime finishing up errands and buying materials that we needed, anxiously waiting for our shipping agent to clear up our customs issues. At 3pm we finally got the call and sprinted over to the Darwin airport to get our trailer. By 5pm, Chopper had arrived at Hidden Valley! We unpacked all our gear and went to work immediately.

We mostly had to finish lots of detail work – the night before we went through the rules one more time and marked a couple things we had to adjust in order to comply. We also built a solar array stand for charging pre- and post-race hours. Our trailer got updated with sponsor stickers.

We left pretty late, but there were still a few teams working! We’re back at the SEVT shack to a few hours of sleep, then back to the track for some more work. Stay tuned for more updates!

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A good meal is easy to find (in Darwin)

After thirty hours of travel, upon arriving to our house in Darwin, Alix and Michael set out with a fresh energy for food preparation. A quick trip to the grocery store and our kitchen was stocked with makings of a delicious meal for the team: salad, mozzarella, tomatoes, delicious Darwin carrots, ground beef, and sausages (curiously marked only as “meat”).

Alejandro, team captain (“el Capitan”), supervises what in Australia is known as the “barbie”.

Alex (left) and Adam (right), display both their enthusiasm for the delicious salad and their unwillingness to endure Darwin’s 30C (86F) heat.

After taking care of their hunger, MIT students Alejandro, Kelly, and Rachel tend to their next-most-important need: Internet. They do so while wearing the team uniform.

Fun Australia facts: the standard soda can is slightly larger than in the US (375 mL vs 355) and our house keys are made of titanium.
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Chopper has been found in Darwin (happily swimming)

Patiently waiting for the carnet and their team members to arrive in Darwin, Rachel, Simon, and Alex visited the “Crocosaurus Cove” and discovered Chopper . . . though not del Sol. He seemed pretty happy, as a solar-heated reptile who weighs just about 3 times that of our Chopper.

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Team in Australia

A few members arrived on Friday and the rest of the team will be here this afternoon.
Our car has arrived safely in Darwin, but we are still waiting on our Carnet to get it through customs. Hopefully we can get that all sorted out on Monday morning and start prepping for the race.

We will post pictures in the next few days, but our current internet connection is a bit too slow for that.We will also be updating our progress on our new twitter account @ChopperdelSol
We also have satellite phones with a data plan thanks to and will be able to send out pictures and updates while racing in the Outback!

Thank you to all our sponsors who have helped us get here. We are all excited to race!

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Solar Car begins its journey to Darwin, Australia.

‎3:56 AM EST: Chopper del Sol is secured in its trailer, ready to begin the voyage to Darwin, Australia.

Late in the night the team said goodbye to the car as it drove off to JFK Airport. The car flies out to Australia later this week. The team is quite excited as we’ve been extremely busy working around the clock these past several weeks to get the car in race shape.

Expect more detailed updates soon!
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Countdown to the race!

With 23 days until the race (and just 3 days until Chopper del Sol is shipped), we are working hard on final preparations. The electrical team is finalizing Chopper’s cruise control system while the mechanical team finishes up the new battery pack box. As soon as these are complete, the rest of the weekend will be spent packing up tools and spare parts for the race, and test driving (if the Boston weather cooperates).

Thanks to everyone who has helped us get to this point! Here are some pictures of Chopper del Sol on Memorial Drive in Cambridge.


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Chopper has been Painted!

The new car has been painted! We decided to go back to all Insignia White for Chopper v2.0. Here’s a quick picture with more detailed too come soon. You’re actually looking at the bottom of the car – it’s flipped upside down on the table.

Thank you to guys at Metan Marine for doing this for us – new bronze sponsors.
Also, notice our new thermo-formed headlight covers (the black corner of the car in the picture above). Definitely an upgrade from before. Here are some pictures and description of the process:
The body IGES file was cut in SolidWorks to show the section of the nose for the head lights. Extra area is needed to allow for folding which will occur during the thermo-forming. 1/16 inch was removed off the surface to account for the plastic. (It’s annoyingly difficult in Solidworks: Copy body without translation, shell one body, subtract). HSMWorks was used to make the 3-D machining contours. I was very grateful to not be messing with MasterCam for this part.
Machining on our Ez-Track with the EVT Porsche in the background.
Finished positive mold after a little sanding and some added epoxy with micro-balloons for s few small diviets
Thermo-forming at the MIT Pappalardo Lab. A big thank you to Dick for helping out when everything was busy with Robocon.
The last step was to cut them down to size and properly attach them to the leading edge of the car.
P.S. Enjoy the new Blog layout. I’ll try to change the background picture from time to time. This one if from our road-trip out in the midwest. The team is packing the car up after a long day of testing out in Iowa.
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Repairs Update

We started painting the upper body today with our array carefully masked off. Over the last few weeks we made a new composite lower body and have been working hard to get everything back together. Below are a series of pictures from the repair work.

Below Alex is doing some final sanding work on the lower body. Once the lay-up is pulled from the mold, the work really begins as the top and bottom halves of the mold need to be glued together and the body to be needs to be smoothed to eliminate bumps which increase aerodynamic efficiency. We use 3M micro-balloons mixed in epoxy as a lightweight filler material. Our body takes about 1.5 weeks of nearly continuous micro application and sanding to be ready for painting.
Painting in the composites room ( the car fits into the room by 1 inch)
Mechanical rebuilding: Our Chassis was unharmed, but our upper and lower A-arms need to be rebuilt. Lauren is welding one together below, while Mike works on boring out the spherical bearing pockets. We try to build as many components in-house as possible to make the SEVT a better learning experience for team members.
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MIT SEVT back into the shop for repairs

In early June, MIT SEVT was out testing in the Midwest – we like the flat long stretches much better than driving around in Boston. However, after three days of successful testing, Chopper del Sol suffered a fairly significant accident in Iowa. Fortunately, our driver walked away unharmed, but there was damage to the lower body and steering that require them to be rebuilt.

The cause was attributed to an issue with the unique steering configuration on Chopper. In response, SEVT is redesigning a significant portion of the steering system, incorporating a time-tested design, but keeping in spirit with the original idea. Look for us at competition this October for more details.
In the meantime, we have been busy in the shop – a new lower body layup was completed successfully, and the chassis is on its way toward incorporating the redesign. Thanks for your continued support – we’ll keep you updated as we move toward competition.
Below is a picture of our bottom body layup, when it was just pulled out of the mold.
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Picture update

I thought I would add some pictures of the work we have been up to. I’m avoiding the shop while the EEs works on the car and make it beep constantly.

EES doing some final testing on the car before the road trip

Tim the Beaver with solar car making tools. Razor blades are the best tools for everything from cutting holes in Kevlar layups to applying epoxy. The wall behind him has some testing samples of composites methods we use on the car.

Video of our canopy hinge working. It’s made with a four bar linkage that results in upward lift before turning to make the canopy clear the roll bar.

FEA of the spindle. The main point of all the testing is to find out what breaks before the race. The spindle shown was bent during some initial testing on a track. Nothing else was damaged including the driver. The wrong alloy and heat treatment was ordered on this bent spindle, which has been fixed. It was fairly amusing how perfectly the FEA and real deformation matched.

Applying the solar array. After encapsulating our solar cells, we applied them to the array using silicone adhesive. The sand bags are to keep everything flat while the silicone cure. We did this process at night to avoid bothering everyone in the building with the smell of vinegar, which silicone release while it cures.

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