MIT Solar Car Team Blog

American Solar Challenge 2018

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

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Unveiling of Flux

Greetings!

We took a short break from testing and making finishing touches on Flux, and had an official unveiling of Flux to the public!

On April 26th, MIT Solar Electric Vehicle Team alumni, the current team, and members of the public gathered to see our newest vehicle. It was a fun afternoon with good representation, and we were able to show and talk about the features of our new vehicle. We even showed it driving to the venue and back with our new electrical system!

We would like to thank everyone who came out to see the team, our sponsors, without whom we wouldn’t have a car and we would like to especially Chris Mayer, Patrick Mcatamney, Camilla Brinkman, Peggy Eysenbach, Professor Kim Vandiver, and Sandra Lipsnoski, without whom this event would not have been possible.

In the coming months we will be hard at work testing and preparing for the upcoming 2018 American Solar Challenge, so look out for our car on a street near you!

 

 

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Cake off

Greetings!

After working hard on solar car projects during our IAP (Independent Activities Period) in January, we ended the month with our annual Battle of the Cakes. We divided our team into freshmen/new members and upperclassmen, and each group was tasked with producing a car-themed cake. Dough not be misled, the competition was stiff. After a gruelling afternoon of  careful baking, and decorating, we were ready to display our final products. There was even a surprise last-minute competition entry as the upperclassmen split off into another group. We had no panel of unbiased judges so we attempted to judged the cakes ourselves: based on taste and appearance.

Unsurprisingly, there was no consensus on the winning design. We knead your opinion to make the final call!

28125486_1829292350708785_161221748_o 28169288_1829292364042117_443652135_o

27946663_476833339381381_86026494_o

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Altium Appreciation

Greetings!

The new semester has begun, and we have a wave of new members, who along with the current team, are already hard at work- designing and building parts for Flux.

MIT Solar Electric Vehicle Team likes to custom design and build as much of the car as we can. This would not be possible without the help of one of our Platinum sponsors, Altium.  Last Monday, our one-year license was renewed. This allows 10 of our members to have access to the software. Thus, we can teach new members how to create schematics and layouts for our boards and get our electrical system optimized and customized. Altium also provides the very useful function of providing an automatic bill of materials, which makes the actual manufacturing process a lot easier.

Our team is very thankful for Altium’s continued support, and helping us make Flux run! (…I mean drive)

CAR

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Updates

A statement from the team captain:

Hi everyone,

Apologies for the radio silence following our last post in November; as you can imagine, we’ve been fairly busy building our car and undergoing some significant team changes.

I would like to announce some recent decisions that the team has come to in light of our assessment of the feasibility of participating in 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge this year. After multiple meetings that spanned several hours, the team has reached the decision that we will not be attending BWSC 2017 this October. This was not an easy decision for obvious reasons, but in the end we decided that there was simply not enough time to properly test and prepare ourselves for the race, and so the conclusion we came to was with the intention that we could have the opportunity to safely optimize what we currently have.

We would like to thank everyone – from all of our sponsors to specific individuals – for all of their help thus far; we are truly thankful for their continuous support. Though it’s a sad decision short term, and certainly not an easy one to make, I believe we’ve made a good decision for the long run that will allow us to properly prepare and ensure resources are well-spent. We look forward to taking on future races with an improved car and team.

Sincerely,

Veronica LaBelle

MIT SEVT, Captain

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Composite Layup 2016

First we are pleased to announce the name for our newest solar car, which we will be taking to the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, will be named Flux! On that note we are happy to say as well that our team is now officially registered for the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.

It is now well into the fall semester, people are studying for finals, the leaves have fallen, and the team has been busy building Flux. The biggest part of this has been the composite layup (see below if you aren’t familiar with this) for Flux’s body. The molds for the upper and lower body were made by Custom Composite Technologies in Maine. We traveled to Maine on the weekends in order to complete all the layups that needed to be done. In total the team has been in Maine five weekends this semester from September through November. There were many late nights, but also some great times as well, such as the team trying to devour three 28-inch pizzas. Sadly the pizzas won. Between all of the weekends we manufactured: the canopy, the top body, and the lower body. We finished off by assembling the chassis and bonding it to the lower body. We have made amazing progress for one semester, and most of the composites work is almost done. Check out some of the pictures from the layup below.

What is a Composite Layup?

In order to make the car as light as possible we use composite materials, such as carbon fiber and Kevlar, as much as possible. Basically we use sheets of woven carbon fiber or kevlar that we then glue together to make a sheet with a high strength to weight ratio. However a single sheet is very thin and flexible. So we make a sandwich-panel where a sheet of honey-comb is sandwiched between two composite sheets. This increases the thickness of the panel making it stiffer.

Laying-up is the actual process of manufacturing a composite material. There are two main layup processes that the team uses: a wet layup, and a prepreg layup. In a wet layup the fibers start out dry. They need to be covered in epoxy before they can be placed on the mold. On the other hand a prepreg layup starts with fibers that are pre-impregnated (or prepreg) with epoxy. With wet layups the epoxy will cure in about a day, and you only have a few hours before it becomes semi-solid. So with wet layups the team has to move fast. Whereas with prepreg the epoxy will take about a month to cure at room temperature, so the work can go much slower. However to get prepreg to properly cure it needs to be heated up with a car-sized oven.

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Summer Wrap Up

This summer was a really exciting time for MIT’s Solar Electric Vehicle Team. After coming back from the road trip, we got to work on constructing the latest vehicle for the 2017 World Solar Challenge. The release of the regulations gave us fun design challenges to think about.

We had several people working full time on solar car over the summer. They acted as owners of specific projects from designing the steering system to the turning fairings. Many of these students working full time were freshman, so they had the opportunity to conduct independent research and become experts in specific fields. Shop started at 11 AM and sometimes went late into the night, but thankfully there was breaks for Mexican food and other fun activities!

Now that the semester is underway, there are classes as well as solar car activities, so we are not in shop everyday! Currently, we have many new members and they are doing exciting new projects!

The future looks bright!

Posted on behalf of Priya Kikani

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Road Trip 2016: Ohio

The week following finals is usually a relaxing time to unwind, relax, and try to put those nasty tests in perspective. However, this is not true for solar car. Finals had barely finished, and the team was already abuzz with activity. The team was getting ready to leave on a road trip that Sunday for Ohio. Road trips are a strong tradition on the team, and for good reason; they offer a great chance to extensively test the solar car on public roads, get the team ready to perform in the upcoming solar challenges, and help train the next generation of drivers.

Photo Credit: Chris Pentacoff '06

Photo Credit: Chris Pentacoff ’06

This year’s road trip was during the last week of May in Columbus, Ohio. The main purpose of this road trip was to get more strategy data on Arcturus, and use Arcturus as a test bed for ideas for the next car. This included testing Arcturus with an off center center of mass to see how stable an asymmetric car would be. This road trip helped train new team members on how to work together during a solar challenge. From this road trip we now have two new solar car drivers who are both comfortable with driving at highway speeds. The data that we collected on our electrical system, brakes, balance, and stability will help improve the design for our 2017 car. The road trip helped with weeding out more issues that team can now address and prevent in future designs.

If you want to see more from the roadtrip check out our flickr

2016 Ohio Road Trip

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Sierra Circuits Sponsorship

Building a solar Car is a difficult task that mandates innovation and ingenuity. Almost every part on Arcturus was custom designed and built by the team. This includes all the electronics that run the car. The team makes custom designs for the many printed circuit boards (PCB) on Arcturus, and our other solar cars. Sierra Circuit’s sponsorship has been a great help on this front. They helped the team immensely by manufacturing our custom PCB’s. These Boards were manufactured quickly and with a high standard of quality. The team is very thankful to Sierra Circuits for its sponsorship, and helping make our solar cars run.

Sierra Circuits

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Regulations Released for 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge

Just today the regulations for the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge were released. Since then the team has been meticulously reading the regulations. The team mailing list has been ablaze with emails looking at the impact of the regulations of the design.

From the regulations’ introduction here are the biggest changes that have been made for 2017:

  • The maximum allowable size for cars has been increased to allow greater diversity of design, and provisions made to find synergy with other international events.
  • Challenger solar collector area has been reduced to 4 m2 (for silicon PV) half of what was allowed in the first World Solar Challenge in 1987.
  • Cruiser solar collector area is reduced to 5 m2 for silicon PV cells, to make it easier to fit a solar collector on a practical car.
  • The apertures of solar reflectors and concentrators will be restricted.
  • Refinements have been made to the requirements for occupant protection and vehicle dynamics. In addition there is a new requirement for mechanical braking on all road wheels.
  • Energy storage limits have been removed for Cruiser Class, which will be run as a single stage regularity trial’, Success in Cruiser Class will be based on energy efficiency practicality and adherence to time targets.
  • Adventure Class will be non-competitive.

This marks many large changes for all of the classes. For challenger class, which we hope to compete in, this greatly reduces the solar collector area. The regulations also limit solar concentrators and other devices which will ultimately reduce the power output of the car’s solar array. More than ever efficiency will be the name of the game as teams work to further optimize how the precious Watts the solar array produce are used. Car will be lighter, and more aerodynamic, and will continue to push the boundary of efficiency. our team is excited to take this challenge head on, and hopes to see everyone at the start line on Saturday October 8,2017.

Bridgestone World Solar Challenge PRIMARY LOGO

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