photography

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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Road Trip to Detroit

As we previously mentioned, the team went to Detroit in July! Though the purpose of the trip was for wind tunnel testing, that activity only took one day, so we spent the rest of the week doing some serious road testing and practicing for the upcoming Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. This week of testing gave us valuable experience, allowed for design optimizations to be made, and gave us critical data on Arcturus’s power draw.

For those not familiar with Michigan, they have some very snowy, cold winters, which leads to many of their roads having pot holes. This was great for testing our suspension, but after proving our rugged design, it was time to allow the drivers to have some comfort in the form of a smooth road. We eventually found a suitable route in a rural town outside of Detroit. While driving out in the countryside, we noticed that there was a large thunderstorm forming on the Doppler RADAR. Fearing there might be hail, and with our trailer a few miles away, we sought the only feasible shelter, a gas station. This was definitely a good call, as, within a few minutes of parking Arcturus, a torrential downpour began.

Arcturus at a gas station

This testing was good, but we quickly became limited by the speed limit on our chosen route, so we graduated to testing Arcturus on rural highways. After speaking with the Superintendent, we were able to set up “camp” at a school along the highway we had chosen to test on. The route also had some good hills, which was great for testing.

Beyond testing the car and training our drivers, the road trip was great for meeting people and doing some informal outreach. Almost all of the people we met in Michigan were very kind and intrigued by the car. In fact, one of the teachers we happened to talk to ended up tweeting about us:

We left Michigan at the end of the week. Everyone was exhausted from seven long days of testing and fixing. This week provided great practice and road time to prepare for the 2015 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. We even managed to get back to Boston in time to get the people who flew in for the week to the airport for their flights out. Check out the pictures from the road trip.

Bridgestone World Solar Challenge PRIMARY LOGO

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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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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A good meal is easy to find (in Darwin)


After thirty hours of travel, upon arriving to our house in Darwin, Alix and Michael set out with a fresh energy for food preparation. A quick trip to the grocery store and our kitchen was stocked with makings of a delicious meal for the team: salad, mozzarella, tomatoes, delicious Darwin carrots, ground beef, and sausages (curiously marked only as “meat”).

Alejandro, team captain (“el Capitan”), supervises what in Australia is known as the “barbie”.

Alex (left) and Adam (right), display both their enthusiasm for the delicious salad and their unwillingness to endure Darwin’s 30C (86F) heat.

After taking care of their hunger, MIT students Alejandro, Kelly, and Rachel tend to their next-most-important need: Internet. They do so while wearing the team uniform.

Fun Australia facts: the standard soda can is slightly larger than in the US (375 mL vs 355) and our house keys are made of titanium.
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