McKay School Visit and Junior Solar Sprints

In May, some students from the McKay School in Boston came to see Eleanor. George, Mike, and I showed them the shop and the car.

 George and Mike talking with the students.

We also had the opportunity to display Eleanor at the Junior Solar Sprints in Cambridge, which was held at MIT’s track.

We enjoyed seeing the mini solar cars that the children built and raced!

Future solar raycers.
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South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Yesterday, we drove Eleanor to South Boston and marched in the parade. It was raining the entire time, but there was still a sizable crowd. Many parade watchers were in awe when they saw Eleanor.

Waiting before the parade began.

Many thanks to Rick Winterson (MIT ’56) for making arrangements for us to participate in the parade.

TeenLife Boston Community Volunteer Fair

Last Sunday, we took Eleanor to the TeenLife Boston fair in Chestnut Hill. People were pretty enthusiastic about the car and asked a lot of questions.

Before the fair began.
Michael B., Fiona, and Mike talk with fair participants.
  We enjoyed showing the car at the fair. Thanks to TeenLife Boston for inviting us!
Photo credit: Chris Pentacoff
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Picture Update!

Although the results of the race are in and the team is back in the U.S., I’ll start off with a few pictures from scrutineering and qualifying. Eleanor was scrutineered on Wednesday 10/21. Race officials verified the car’s dimensions, weight, and array size. All drivers were weighed so we could be ballasted up to 80 kg. The entire caravan and all of our safety equipment was inspected. We demonstrated Eleanor’s turn signals and brake lights and our battery pack was tied shut so that any tampering during the race would we obvious. Below some of our electrical team members, Alex, Robert and Kelly, discuss the car’s electrical system with the scrutineers.

After completing scrutineering, we applied our nice 3M stickers to the trailer and then set out for a test drive.

We got in a few practice tire changes and experience on the left side of the road before running into an issue with the mechanical brakes and a problem with seizing lug nuts. Chris took this picture of the entire caravan while we were stopped.

We were able to completely resolve the brake issue later that day, but the seizing lug nuts would come back to haunt us on day 2 of the race when a driver change turned into a tire change and then turned into a hub change. We finally worked out this issue that night and had no problems on subsequent tire changes.

Our awesome tire changing crew, lead by Alex Arambula (pictured awesomely below), performed awesomely during the race. The University of New South Wales team, Sunswift, took a video of a 3.5 minute rear wheel swap on day 4. We will try to get a copy of it and post it here for posterity.

Each day of the race we had at least one control stop. Control stops are 30 minute or 10 minute mandatory stops at various towns along the route. This allows the teams to switch drivers, fill up the support vehicles with gas, and go to the bathroom without worrying about other teams catching up while they do so. Control stops also allow you to get a little extra charge from the array. Since every watt-hour counts, we sometimes held the array tilted towards the sun if the stop was early or late in the day. The Alice Springs control point is pictured below. We pulled in to Alice Springs in the middle of day 3 and therefore could leave the array on the car. Because the cells get hot and produce less power when hot, we spray the array with de-ionized water when charging but not driving (while driving the convective cooling of air over the array keeps it cool). Ethan and Rachel are quickly wiping water off the array so we can get back on the road at the end of our 30 minute stop.

Late on day 3 we pulled into Kulgera for a short control stop. Unfortunately there was no time to visit the pub.

On the evening of day 3 we took this group picture with Eleanor and the southern stars. I thought we had grabbed our whole 15 person caravan for this picture (our observer, Wendy, is wearing the telltale yellow shirt), but upon close examination it looks like Pete managed to escape.

Although we reached the end of timing on day 5, we had to wait until the next day to pull into the Victoria Square finish line. Sunswift also had to wait, so we arrived just a few minutes after them although they completed the race about 90 minutes ahead of us. Sunswift is a really friendly team, and they wasted no time in encouraging us to jump into the Victoria Square fountain. The entire team was soaked when we posed for our finish line picture.

I hope you’ve enjoyed following our race on this blog. We will continue to post updates as we begin work on our next vehicle. Eleanor was shipped home from Adelaide and should be returning in mid December. In the meantime, a few final pictures by day and by night.


First Day at the Track

Late crew arrived last night, so today was our first full day at the track. We got to the Hidden Valley Motor Sports Complex around 8 am and began working on Eleanor and the caravan. In addition to getting Eleanor ready to race, we have to prepare the lead, chase, and trailer-hauling vehicles for scrutineering. Yesterday early crew began wiring up the radios, GPS, “crazy lights,” and laptop power in the lead vehicle. Today we worked on getting chase ready to go, while the Land Cruiser visited the rental company for some repairs.
By the afternoon we had Eleanor ready for some test driving around the track. Kelly, Ethan and I each drove around a few laps. We are scheduled to go to scrutineering on Thursday morning, but will try to get everything ready in order to scrutineer tomorrow. Hopefully we’ll be able to test drive on actual roads on Thursday and Friday. Saturday is the qualifying round which will determine our starting position on Sunday. We will post pictures soon.

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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.
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