MIT Solar Car Team Blog

Check us out in the MIT Alumni Association’s Slice of MIT blog!

http://slice.mit.edu/2014/09/03/valkyrie/

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Activities Midway

We brought Valkyrie to the MIT Activities Midway, the primary recruiting and publicity event for clubs at MIT. We had many interested freshmen sign up and are looking forward to having new members!

There will be more introductory meetings and publicity events in the upcoming weeks. If you get a chance, stop by our open house event at the Edgerton Center this Saturday at 3pm.

Recruiting at Activities Midway

Recruiting at Activities Midway

The Team

The team.

American Solar Challenge Blues

On Friday night, July 11th, the MIT Solar Electric Vehicle Team drove down to Austin, TX, to begin the scrutineering process for the up-and-coming American Solar Challenge. After passing all of the scrutineering events, we proceeded to compete in the Formula Sun Grand Prix (FSGP), the track race that is the final qualifier for the American Solar Challenge. On the last day of FSGP, our car ran into difficulty and we unfortunately were not able to qualify for the American Solar Challenge.

We also would like to sincerely thank all of our sponsors for their continued support and mentorship. Without them, none of what we do would be possible.

With this race now behind us the team looks eagerly forward to FSGP 2015 – to improve upon the designs of this car and the cars that the MIT Solar Electric Vehicle Team has built before. We are also switching from the canonical 3-wheeled solar car design to a 4-wheeled design, which will bring challenges and opportunities for our design team.

Post written by Dillon McConnon

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Solar Car Track Testing

On Tuesday, April 22nd, MIT’s Solar Electric Vehicle Team trooped over to Seekonk Speedway, MA to do track testing. It was a lot of fun, and the weather was nice.

The day started at 5 AM, as we had to make some last minute fixes on the car—namely, installing seatbelts and such. Then, we drove over to the track. The parking lot was huge! The track was a 1/3 mile banked oval and very smooth. We brought snacks.

Track testing was very informative. We found a lot of bugs in the car, which we are working to mend currently. Wish us luck!

Post written by Priya Kikani.

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MIT Energy Conference

The day started very early with the team gathering at 5am to drive our solar car, Valkyrie, from the Edgerton shop to the MIT energy conference held at Westin Copley Place in Boston. The three car caravan included a lead car, a truck pulling a trailer and a chase car. Valkyrie was carefully unloaded from the trailer and brought up via elevator into the display area.
After catching up on missed sleep some team members returned to the conference around 11am to talk to the conference attendees as they broke for lunch. Later in the afternoon more team members joined for the evening expo. Various energy companies representatives, executives, scientists and the general public wandered around the various booths set up. The team shared our experience building Valkyrie so far and our plans for the American Solar Challenge. People were excited about what we are doing and expressed support and encouragement. The team got to meet some very interested company representatives and even the founders of some energy start ups!
The conference ended at 8pm and Valkyrie was loaded back into the trailer and taken across the Charles river back to MIT where the work continues.

Post written by Michelle Chao.

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No More Breaks

Hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Year’s! Our team was able to relax for a bit after finishing the composite layup. After 2 trips to Maine, 60 hours of work, and $55,000, Valkyrie‘s body has been completed! One of our members, Chris Pentacoff, compiled a cool timelapse video of the process. Check it out below!

Now that the team has taken a much-needed break, the next few months until the race are gonna get hectic. We plan to attend the MIT Energy Conference in late February with an almost-completed solar car. This means a completed solar array, mechanical system, and battery pack all integrated with the composite body. Not to mention that we’re looking for a new truck and trailer. Whew. Let’s hope this month is a good one.

Time to ASC: 195 days

Post written by Julia Hsu.

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Valkyrie Layup, Part 1

With a new year comes new members – lots of them – which makes it a perfect time to start from the basics. First on the agenda for the school year is Valkyrie’s body layup. Now, we have to give a big thanks to Custom Composites Technologies Inc. for really helping us out in this department. Not only did they give us a HUGE oven to bake our molds, but also a lot of workshop space to do the actual layup. The hitch? They’re actually located in Bath, Maine. So add a 3 hour drive (give or take traffic and aggressive drivers) and we’re good to go.

Did I mention that Custom Composites Technologies Inc. also made our molds? They’re really great. If you’re new to this, let’s start from the beginning so that you can really appreciate how much they’ve done for us. First, a male mold is made from a CAD model using a 5 axis CNC. Then the female molds that we actually use for the layup are made as the opposite of the original male mold – the bottom is the red mold and the top is the grey one. The thing about the molds is that the red one was sealed and the grey one wasn’t. So we sealed the top one after cleaning the molds thoroughly for anything that could prevent a good quality finish on the exterior of the car. Meanwhile, we started to make templates for the pieces of fabric going on the car and begin to cut the carbon fiber and kevlar..

If you’ve ever had to make templates and cut materials before, you’ll know just how complicated it can be. Between trying to fit lots of curves and taping materials carefully so they don’t fray, the night started to get pretty long. Finally we got around to sealing and Frekote-ing the molds (so that the carbon fiber and kevlar come cleanly off the molds) and we were ready to get everyone on their feet and putting the pieces of the car together. Then we started mixing epoxy.

In case this all is really new to you, epoxy is a mix of a resin and a hardener, or in other words, a little more work than pulling out a gluestick. Also, you want to mix it constantly and in smaller portions to keep it just right for applying to the fabric. As a result, we had an entire work table covered in plastic cups and epoxy which smelled a lot like fish (in case you were wondering). In hordes around the molds, people intensely applied epoxy all over the carbon fiber/kevlar (carbon fiber on bottom and kevlar with some unifiber carbon fiber on top). Now don’t take this as an easy task either – the canopy just about gave some of us migraines as we tried to fit the pieces we had just cut from templates, but after some quick modifications, things begin to fit properly.

Finally, we just had to vacuum seal both molds and stick them in the oven as we watched the sun rise out of windows that we didn’t realize were there before. Done at 7am. Not a bad 8 hours of work. Granted, that wasn’t the initial plan at all until the truck with our prepregs got delayed. Now mark your calendars – Valkyrie’s body should be finished this Saturday, November 2!

(Time lapse coming soon!)

Post written by Cyndia Cao.

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ANSYS, molds, and CFRP

You’ve heard the plans from Julia: we race next in the 2014 American Solar Challenge and shortly afterward the 2015 World Solar Challenge! We’re taking this extra time for development that we have been wanting to do for a while but haven’t had the manpower, time, or money. We’ll be running in the 2014 ASC with a new motor, giving us a noticeable bonus in power – the equivalent of eight to twelve additional solar cells. Our array encapsulation and modularization is maturing aggressively, but I can’t talk about that just yet . . .

Valkyrie, as we are referring to the ASC 2014 vehicle, will be the first of our solar cars with an all-composite chassis. This was a decision made with a great deal of consideration. Working with steel as a primary structural material has given us a great deal of flexibility in design and freedom in construction while meeting a high standard of crash protection. What we hope to achieve with a composite and largely CFRP (carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic) structure is even greater design freedom, even greater crash protection – CFRP can have an order of magnitude greater specific energy absorption than steel – at the expense of slightly less leeway and forgiveness in construction. Our toolmaking has improved to the standard we require for a composite/CFRP car and we are excited about improving those methods even further.

Speaking of molds: we are looking for a new home for Chopper del Sol’s molds! The molds reflect the 2012 ASC version, with straight front fairings. Taker will have to arrange shipping but otherwise they are likely free of cost. For more information, contact gosolar@mit.edu.

I’d like to welcome our newest sponsor, ANSYS. ANSYS’ FLUENT package will be the principal fluid simulation suite for the development of Valkyrie. Without well-packaged, flexible, and relatively computationally inexpensive modeling tools like FLUENT, the things we do would be significantly less tractable, more expensive, and more time consuming.

George
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Starting Anew

Hello everyone!

Sorry for the lack of updates, our team has been busy designing our next solar cars! After much consideration, the MIT SEVT has decided to compete in the 2014 American Solar Challenge with a three wheel vehicle. In conjunction, we will also be designing and constructing a four wheel vehicle in preparation for the 2015 World Solar Challenge. There will be plenty of work, but we want to race competitively and still be prepared for future races. With the change in design from 3 wheels to 4, there has been a lot of discussion about the overall structure and design. Currently, the aerodynamics team is working on simulations and designing the car shape. Here are some cool pictures of what they’ve been up to:

Simulation performed by Alastair Gregory.

Simulation performed by Alastair Gregory.

On the electrical front, a motor change is in order. Currently, our team is looking into Mitsuba and CSIRO as viable options. However, we won’t know for sure which motor to use until we perform some dyno testing.  On the mechanical front, the team is currently designing the suspension system to be improved from the last system. Overall, the team is excited to begin fresh and hunker down to build two vehicles in three years!

WOO!
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Thanks to Our Sponsors!!

Now that we’re at the beginning of another design cycle, we would like to give all our sponsors a big thanks to show them our appreciation. We wouldn’t be able to compete in solar car races if it wasn’t for the time, material, and donations given to us by our sponsors. These companies are kind enough to help out with molds, composite materials, PCBs, electronic equipment, batteries, and software – to name only a few things. On top of that they are truly interested in our team, and offer advice and encouragement whenever they can. Our sponsors are all great companies that excel at what they do, and are generous enough to help student teams like us build something as interesting and exciting as a solar-powered car. Check them out below!