MIT Solar Car Team Blog

More 2012 ASC Photos

Chopper del Sol’s top basks in the sun to get a nice morning charge.

Chopper del Sol in action during dynamic scrutineering.

Team members quickly push the car to the beginning position.

An official looks over the car before dynamic scrutineering.

The insides of Chopper del Sol.

Dillon practices the driver egress test.

The electrical team works on the battery pack.

The team prepares for the afternoon charge.

Officials look over the car as Chopper undergoes a morning charge.

The team poses at some farmland near Normal, IL.  

Our awesome America sticker on the nose of Chopper.

The team prepares to load the car into the trailer.

Sweet MIT logo on our fairings.

Dillon prepares to undertake dynamic scrutineering.

The team checks out the car at the finish line in St. Paul, MN.

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Fashionably Late

After arriving in Goshen, IN, the next stage stop was Normal, IL. Day 5 began alright, but about half an hour later, the car’s motor shut off and would not restart. The electrical team began to debug the problem in a nearby grass lot. However, to make the situation even worse, a thunderstorm poured down rain and created an unsuitable working environment. With no other options, the team decided to trailer Chopper del Sol to Normal, IL and try to debug the problem there.

The last and final day of ASC required teams to cross the finish line at St. Paul, MN. After arriving in Normal, IL, the electrical team spent all night fixing a battery pack issue and successfully had Chopper del Sol driving around….at least they thought so. About forty-five minutes into our drive to St. Paul, MN, the car’s motor shut off again and would not restart. Since the last stage stop closed at 4PM, the team had two options: push the car across the finish line or try to debug the problem and drive in with pride. True to the MIT spirit, the team decided to fix the issue and try to make the stage stop before 4PM.

Since it was raining heavily yet again, the team trailered Chopper once more to a parking lot about 20 miles from the finish line. At 2PM, the electrical team quickly got to work. After an hour and a half, the electrical team had successfully fixed the issue! With only thirty minutes to spare, the team sprang into action! By 3:55PM, we had driven 17 miles and only had 3 miles left to reach the finish line. Thanks to a MIT alumni at the finish line, the officials extended the finish line closing to 4:10PM. With only a few minutes to spare, the MIT team rushed forward to reach the finish line. At exactly 4:08PM, Chopper del Sol finished the 2012 American Solar Challenge.

The team is all smiles as MIT officially finished ASC in St. Paul, MN.

Despite all the setbacks, the MIT team never gave up. Even with all the late nights of work and despair, every minute of the journey was a valuable and fun experience for all the members. The 2012 American Solar Challenge was an underdog story that will never be forgotten. 

We would like to thank all our sponsors and fans for making 2012 ASC possible! Without your support, none of this amazing journey would have been possible. More pictures of the race and team will be uploaded to the blog shortly.
 
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Race Update: Day 4

As we said in our last update, Chopper Del Sol experienced a moderate crash on Sunday, the second day of racing for the American Solar Challenge. It came on a day that would have allowed us to move up to 2nd or 3rd place if we had been able to maintain our pace. But with the goal of winning the race a  very, very distant hope (we were penalized almost 1300 minutes for trailering our vehicle because the crash occurred so close to the start of the stage and the penalty is based on how many miles the car is trailered), we have set out with a new goal: to finish this race.

We arrived in Ann Arbor on Sunday afternoon and quickly set up a place to work in the parking lot of our hotel. The crash thankfully only damaged the composite body and didn’t affect anything structural. So we set out to patch up the broken composites and the slight jigsaw puzzle that the lower front part of the body had become. We worked through the night and all of the next day, and by the end of the day we had a functioning body. Meanwhile, our electrical team were working on the battery and some other issues that came about after the crash. The work continued until Tuesday morning, the start of the next stage. At 9:10am, Chopper Del Sol was again in one piece and was out on the road, prepared for another day of racing.

We headed out from Ann Arbor in the beautiful, mostly clear day. The heat was quite extreme, about 100 degrees fahrenheit (and even hotter in the car), making it quite difficult on our drivers. Julia started out the day, driving 170 miles to Kalamazoo, MI, where we had a checkpoint and Western Michigan University. The heat proved to caused some temperature issues with our battery pack, but beyond that, Chopper ran quite smoothly considering what had happened 2 days ago. After the check point, Dillon took control of the car and drove it to Goshen, IN. We have been able to pass a number of teams in this stage, although our overall time is still far behind the other times because of the penalties that we have received. But we are happy to be back out on the road and racing our solar car. Tomorrow morning we will head out to Normal, IL, the next stage stop.

More updates will be coming soon with pictures showing the work that has been done on the car and everything else that had been happening. Right now, we all need to get some rest in order to be ready for another race day tomorrow. Be sure to follow everything that is happening at http://americansolarchallenge.org/.

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ASC Day 1 & 2

As you might have read on our blog, we have been hard at work preparing for the American Solar Challenge 2012. We were very excited to start the race in Rochester yesterday, July 14.

Out of twelve teams, we were able to gain four positions over the course of the first day of racing while using relatively little battery due to good sun.

Today, we woke up to a thunderstorm that only worsened as the race day continued. Unfortunately, as we entered Ohio, the solar car hydroplaned and hit a pole on the side of the road. Our driver was well-protected and completely unharmed. However, the car sustained significant damage to the composite upper body.

The team is working diligently to repair the car and get back onto the road as soon as possible. We are confident that we will be able to finish all repairs by tomorrow afternoon and continue the race on Tuesday morning.

Ready to Rayce

Over the past week, everyone on the team has worked hard to finish up some final fixes to the car. And we are proud to announce that we are now qualified to race in the American Solar Challenge!

Taken last Friday before we left our shop in Boston, MA for Monticello, NY.
Friday afternoon. After a long 4-hour drive (luckily with minimal traffic), we  arrived at the Monticello Motor Club, where the car will be scrutineered.
The team relaxing on the grass after the long drive. Our Aero Lead Thomas plays the guitar. 

 The next 6 days consisted of intense scrutineering and last minute work done to perfect every aspect of our solar car Chopper del Sol. Many late night work shifts and energy drinks later, we passed all 8 of the scrutineering inspection stations (Array, Driver, Body and Sizing. Electrical, Battery Protection System, Mechanical, Dynamic, & Support).

ASC sticker and our team number.

Beautiful sunset at the Monticello track.

Today (July 12th) is the last day of scrutineering. In order to qualify for the American Solar Challenge, our three drivers, Tom, Dillon, and Julia, must complete a total of 105 laps on the track.

Driving down to the track.

Our EEs getting a few hours of sleep during the track race.

Our Mechanical Lead Buchman is prepping the tires for the tire change.

At exactly 3:44.47PM, our driver Julia crosses the finish line for the 105th time,  officially qualifying us for the race from Rochester, NY to St Paul, MN starting Saturday!
We will be driving to Rochester tomorrow for the pre-race showcase of all the solar cars at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). If you are around this area, drop by and say hi! The race will begin on Saturday, July 14th, at 9AM. Stay tuned for more blog posts and updates on the race!

We would like to extend a sincere thank you to our sponsors, supporters, friends, and families. We would not have been able to get this far without you!

Practice Makes Perfect

 Test driving has been going well so far! It’s exciting to see Chopper del Sol running again and performing well. We’ve discovered plenty of useful details along the way that need some tweaking. Since the weather has been reaching the high 90’s, all four of our drivers are also getting plenty of practice. Thus far, we have used the MIT track at Steinbrenner stadium to practice the driving technique for the FSPG event. We also have conducted miniature tests for scrutineering at a nearby parking lot such as the figure-8 test and slalom course. Check out our experiences below:

Testing the acceleration at Steinbrenner stadium!
Dillon chats with Tom during test driving at the parking lot.
Tom checks the brakes before Dillon starts the car.
Kelly bikes around the solar car.

Lunch break!
Our new sandwich club!

 
Practicing for the slalom test.

The Figure-8 Test requires that any driver be able to complete a figure-8 around two 6m radius circles in less than 18 seconds.

 The Slalom Test requires that any driver must be able to weave in and out of a 126m course with cones every 18m in less than 11.5 seconds.

Countdown: 10 days!

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Test Driving: Day 2!

Yesterday we went out again to test Chopper in a nearby parking lot, and us drivers had a lot of fun trying out some maneuvers like figure-eights and a slalom course. 

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Counting Down the Seconds

Sorry for the late blog post! Things have been getting pretty hectic around the shop in preparation for our first test drive. However, almost all the electrical and mechanical components are ready to go! We predict to take our first test drive later today or tomorrow.

One of our recently assembled electrical components is our shiny new steering wheel. Kai Cao, an MIT graduate student, designed and built it for electrical organization and driver compatibility. It now includes all the basic driver commands such as turning signals, emergency lights, speedometer, etc. Check it out below:

So shiny! And the handles have comfortable grips. 
All of the inside electrical components of the wheel.
A closer look at the main hardware. 

Chopper del Sol is almost complete thanks to these guys:

The electrical team works on the printed circuit boards.
George and Dillon are machining kevlar composites for body attachment pieces.

Dillon prepares to CNC machine canopy attachment pieces.
Kai analyzes some code on his laptop.

We also were shown on the ABC Chronicle tv show last Thursday night! The episode featured how people used alternative energy fuels and methods to efficiently power vehicles. Check out the video on their website here:
http://www.wcvb.com/chronicle/Looking-to-the-future/-/12523032/14865524/-/idq6n6/-/index.html

20 days left until ASC! LEZZ GOOOO

A Great Start

The basic mechanical system is complete and drives like a dream! We took the bottom half of the car outside today and pushed it manually to get a feel for the car. Although we only tested in the back alley of our shop, the steering was easy and the car rolled smoothly. We plan to test the entire car including the electrical system this coming Tuesday. Here are some pictures and a video!

Chopper del Sol’s mechanical system basking in the sun.

Bruce and Dillon bring out the car for some testing.

Dillon pushes Julia around in the car.

Go! Go! Go!
WWHEEEEE
Dillon is focusing very intensely. 

http://www.facebook.com/v/10151134362290101

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32 Days Left

The weather in Boston has been dreary and rainy all week, so we’ve decided to start testing early next week. Until then, we’ve been working on many details to improve Chopper del Sol. One of those details is the composite body. The body has all its components attached, but needs a lot of sanding to make its edges smoother. On the mechanical side, the suspension system is complete and the braking system is nearly done. The brake caliper mounts were CNC machined today and will be attached to the uprights soon. On the electrical side, the array board has been modified and its pcb (printed circuit board) came in the mail today. Its assembly is in the works. Below are some pictures of these processes:

Dillon is preparing to CNC machine the brake caliper mounts using HSMWorks.

The CNC mill is being prepped.
   
The CNC mill is doin its thang.    
Rose examines the pcb layout to determine which electrical components need to be assembled.

 Rose is picking out the correct surface-mount resistor.

Time to solder everything!

 Part of the array board CAN code.

 Rose is comparing codes on the shop computer.

Top half of Chopper del Sol.
The nose is currently being sanded after adding micro. 

 Only one more month until ASC! GET PUMPED.