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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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Spring Semester and Tilted Solar Cells

This week is the first week of classes for the spring semester. This is rather late for a college to be starting classes, but as I mentioned in our last blog MIT has the Individual Activities Period (IAP) for most of January. This is the fun week of figuring out classes, and bugging your Adviser every other day. I have managed to submit two add/drop forms by the second day of the semester. Let’s hope this trend doesn’t continue. So what does a nuclear Engineering student take? This semester I am taking thermal-fluids engineering, programming in MATLAB, Applied Nuclear Physics, and Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics.

Besides classes I have also been working on an interesting project for the solar car. Right now I am working on modeling the power output from possible array designs for our next car. I am working with the aerodynamics team to give them feedback so we can balance the aerodynamics with solar array output. In my research for this I came across this programming library called PVLIB which was developed by the PV Performance Modeling Collaborative at Sandia National Labs. This library is making my life so much easier by predicting the solar irradiance, calculating the “effective irradiance” for a single cell, and just doing all the complex (real numbers only) math I didn’t want to code. Now just to model a few hundred solar cells that move!

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Test Driving at Palmer Motorsport Park

This Monday (13 July) we had a great day of testing at Palmer Motorsport Park, a new 2.3 mile track located less than two hours from the shop in the hills of Massachusetts. Palmer Motorsport Park was generous enough to donate to us this track time making them one of our newest sponsors. This track testing was extremely helpful for, as it allowed us to stress test the dynamics and handling of the car, while not having to worry about other cars on the road. We were able to push the car at high speeds through the course’s steep hills and tight turns safely. The drivers gained valuable experience with the car in these conditions and learned to drive the solar car efficiently to conserve battery energy.

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The day began rather early at our shop. We quickly loaded our gear into the truck and chase car, and headed west for Palmer, MA. Along the way there we were able to practice driving as and chase and lead for the solar car; although Arcturus was in the trailer, so some imagination was required. Once we arrived we were graciously greeted by the Owner and Caretaker, and we are able to quickly unload with their help.

DSC_1025

In the first few laps of testing we found a few minor improvements that could be made. Once we had implemented these Arcturus was running even better than before. We were then able to focus more on getting the drivers more comfortable with Arcturus, and the track. Each driver did a few slow starting laps to get used to the course’s tight turns and hills. Then each successive lap was bumped up to a higher speed. By the end of the day each driver was driving at high speeds, while also managing to be very energy efficient. They were able to better understand how to drive Arcturus at high speeds with minimal power draw, and practiced coasting and using regenerative breaking on the many downhill parts.

At the end of the day we had gotten in a good 7 hours of testing, had gathered valuable data for strategy, and even more important driver experience.

Check out some of the pictures from the day:

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Thanks Genasun and EMA Services!

Now that things have settled down a bit and Chopper is back in Boston, we would like to thank Genasun and EMA Services for all the invaluable help they gave us in constructing our battery pack.

First, a huge thanks to Genasun! Alex MeVay and Alexander Hayman of Genasun ( also alums of the team) designed our pack and battery protection system. They were also kind enough to offer us a place to construct the pack as well, and we spent several long days putting together all the batteries, PCBs, and wire cabling. Check out some pictures from the assembly party below!

David screws hardware into some of the PCBs 

 Kelly checks the alignment of the battery tabs before placing the top PCB 
Close-up of the batteries

Julia cuts zip ties holding the two PCB panels together. Almost done!


And of course, another huge thanks to EMA Services. who assembled our BMS boards free of charge. Thanks for helping us out, even during your vacation time!



The team is ready to get started designing again, and we look forward to working with Genasun and EMA Services, as well as all our other sponsors, for our next build cycle. Keep checking the blog, as we’ll be posting updates about our progress. 

Assembling MPPTs

Last night, we partially assembled the newest rev of our maximum power point trackers (MPPTs).

Kai applies solder paste to the surface mount pads.
Robert baked all of the boards, so the surface mount components are done. Next time, we’ll solder the through-hole components to finish up.

Update: The MPPTs are assembled.
kelly
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