chopper del sol

WSC 2011 Final Results

The final results from WSC went up — the provisional results were contested, and WSC officials found a few accounting errors. We moved up one place to 15th, with the same number of solar kilometers (2222).

Full results here.

More Race Photos

A couple more race photos! Photo credit: Simon Calcutt (our awesome British Electrical Engineer).  Simon had worked with the team when he had been at MIT as an exchange student from Cambridge University. It was wonderful to have him join us in Australia this year.

The team at the finish line: Victoria Square in Adelaide.
Chopper in the Australian outback. 

Epic sunset picture.
Chopper + Trailer under the night sky.
Driving through the rain. Rain-X and Silicone sealant go a long way.
Kelly cruising along.

Team paparazzi taking pictures of our lead car followed by the solar car and chase. 

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Day 7 – River Deep, Mountain High

At the end of Day 6, we laid out our ole’ trusty blue tarp at a campground in Glendambo and slept there*. We woke up to a sky full of clouds and misery.

Our scout car drove south, seeking sunnier skies. The rest of the team, with our trailered car, followed scout forward until we found a nice, flat spot with decent sun. After charging our pack from the array, we trailered the car back a couple hundred kilometers and proceeded to drive Chopper forward until we hit Port Augusta. Along the way, we encountered plenty of rolling hills, cattle grates, gusts of wind, and fast road trains.

Waiting for the clouds to break during our morning charge:

Solarcars were not allowed to drive south of Port Augusta after a certain time, so we trailered Chopper and took our convoy south to Adelaide.

We dropped out bags off at Quest in Adelaide and devoured a Lebanese meal. As you may know, Adelaide means partytime!, so we proceeded to meet up with other teams and celebrate the end of the race.

On Sunday, we drove up to the WSC finish line in Victoria Square. Rachel, Andy, and Annette then dashed off to the airport to catch their flights home. The rest of the team cleaned out our support vehicles, packed our supplies, and got ready to ship the trailer home.

That night, we attended the awards ceremony and got to congratulate the seven teams that finished the race without trailering. I’d like to give kudos to the UMichigan team not only for performing well, but also for embodying the spirit of the race and giving us help when we needed it. Thanks, UM, for lending us battery modules. You da best.

The race results were released that night, and we saw that we finished 16th out of the 37 (or 35?) competing teams.

The next morning, we flew out of Adelaide and encountered various mishaps at the Sydney airport and at LAX. We are now safely in Cambridge 😀

We are humbled by the turn of events that happened in WSC 2011: hellish circumstances, a gracious donation, broken dreams, and new hope. Here’s a big THANK YOU to everyone who contributed time, energy, money, materials, and well wishes to the team.

WSC 2011
MIT SEVT
(Both photos by Chris Pentacoff. Thanks dude.)
*At the end of Day 6 we drove our convoy north of Glendambo, desperate to find sun for an evening charge.  While passing a non-MIT vehicle, our truck hit an emu which later died. Nameless Emu, we apologize deeply…

Day 5 – Sunshine and Daisies in Hell and High Water

Geezus. What the hell is going on. Today was by far the craziest day on the race. We faced fire, smoke, rain, thunder, lightning and abundant sunshine all in one day. Read on.

We started the day with a fantastic morning charge, and the day was looking great. Our array was rocking, we were passing teams left and right, and cruising at up to 76 kph without significantly draining our pack. Our position over the last couple days has moved up a few places, and now we’re chasing the Swiss at 16th place (out of 35 teams). With all the challenges we’ve faced and overcome, we’re proud to be in that position. We also needed to gain time to make the Alice Springs checkpoint since you can only miss one checkpoint before being required to trailer your solar car.

We hit the Alice Springs checkpoint in the early morning (the closest we came to city driving yet) and cruised through. For the rest of the day, we got even more sunshine, allowing us to hit our highest speed yet. Things were looking good for the SEVT, but the weather gods did not have more sun in store for us.

Our scout and ground crew back home reported gathering clouds, and we knew we were headed into some crazy weather. At the mid-afternoon Kulgera checkpoint, we had gained two hours on the next team, and officials were also reporting brush fires up ahead. We scrambled out of Kulgera and straight into ever-increasingly grey skies. Below is our strategy team trying to figure out how to deal with the situation.

About a half hour out of Kulgera, we could see smoke billowing in the distance. As we neared, we could even see flames in the distance and the fire got closer to the road the further south we went. We were shortly in a hellish wasteland of burning shrubbery and scorched earth. The scene was surreal. Below is the solar car passing the scorched shoulder – we could literally see the brush and trees burning.

We first hit rain at around 2-3pm. Lauren was unfazed, and we kept charging through the rain, no matter how hard it got. Rain-X and a little silicone on the canopy seal go a long way. We dropped our speed to account for the drop in array power, but never stopped moving forward. We don’t give up that easily.

The weather stayed grey and by 4pm our array was producing no power at all. We decided to stop about 20 minutes early to avoid completely emptying our battery pack when we found a reasonable camping site. We gathered our cars and built a covering from the rain so we could cook dinner and stay reasonably dry. I’m currently writing this post from the front seat of our chase vehicle while it’s pouring outside. Maybe we’ll get some sun tomorrow to keep going, otherwise we may need to trailer south towards Adelaide. For now, we’re sleeping in the trailer, tents and the cars while this weather clears out. We’ll let you know how tomorrow turns out.

Major props to Annette and Andy Batzer, the parents of one of our students. They joined us in 2009 and came back to support the team. They have been there time and time again to help cook, manage and take care of every other little thing that we forgot. Today, they set up a shelter and cooked us some fantastic spaghetti in ludicrous amounts. A huge thank you to Andy and Annette for the massive amount of work they have put into making this trip a success.

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The ultimate test: 38 hours before the start of the race

Battery update:

Our shippers have failed to ship our battery pack to Darwin, Australia.
The team faces two options:
1. Charter a plane for $15,000 to ship our battery pack to Darwin (which we would maybe receive by the start of the race)
2. Build a new battery pack from nothing
True to the MIT SEVT engineering spirit, we have chosen option #2.
So here is begins: 38 hours before the start of the race the team, already severely sleep deprived, sets out to build a new battery pack for the race.
We would like to thank to following teams for offering to donate bits and pieces of their packs: Stanford, CalSol, Michigan, UNSW, and Aurora.
We have decided to use Michigan’s spare battery pack, which we are now disassembling to produce our own.
Screw textbooks, screw psets, screw exams: this is the true test of engineering. It’s go time:
In the meantime: A shameless sponsorship plug. http://solar-cars.scripts.mit.edu/sponsorship/adoptacell.php Think of it as powering us through the next 38 hours of pure brains, adrenaline, and sheer perseverance.
———–
Couple more photos:
The donations begin to arrive.
The debating begins.

Day 3 — Scrutineering

Today we had a scrutineering slot at 11am to verify regulations compliance. We passed, with the exception of the battery examination. Because our battery pack is still in transit to Darwin, the race officials graciously granted us permission to go through battery scrutineering later on.

Lauren (right) and Kelly (left) at driver weigh-in. Photo credit Andy Batzer.

Chopper del Sol during scrutineering. Photo credit Andy Batzer.

 Our array, propped up on its stand. Photo credit George Hansel.

The team is pretty happy that scrutineering went well. We will continue to haul ass through the next few days to get the car ready for the race. Tomorrow, we will test drive and do some fine-tuning.

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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Wind Tunnel Testing

We’re back from the wind tunnel! We headed up to Michigan over spring break to test the vehicle at the Ford Driveability Test Facility. During the tests, we validated all our CFD results, made small modifications and adjustments, and finally characterized the vehicle in a variety of situations. Here are a couple teasers of the vehicle; you’ll have to wait until the unveiling on April 12 for the full view.

In addition to testing the body, we are continuing development of the electrical system. In the next couple of weeks, we will wire the full array and get the basic system up and running before the unveiling.

The vehicle unveiling will occur April 12th from 4-6pm in Lobby 13 on campus! Check our blog for more details as we get closer to that date. The unveiling will feature a formal presentation from the team as well, and is open to the general public.

Body Work

It’s January! Classes start in February, so we’re at the shop every day. One of our major tasks is finishing the body. We’re getting buff and getting cut to improve future performance. Chopper del Sol is shaping up to be a lean mean endurance machine, with the ability to last a long time under the hot Australian sun.

In addition to working on the body, we’re redesigning the electronics and taking care of details for the race. 9 months to go!

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