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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After leaving Barcaldine, we drove a long time, and then stopped for the night in Camooweal National Park, which is famous for having a bunch of caves.  The camping spots were 12km off the main highway, on a dirt road, which was a bit of an adventure.

In the morning, we briefly checked out the caves, and then drove for a long time.  We stopped for the night in Katherine.  Specifically, we camped in Nitimiluk National Park, which is famous for gorges.  In the morning, we woke up, briefly checked out the gorges, and then took off on the final stretch for Darwin.  Our two vehicle caravan split up, the van sped ahead to work out some car rental issues, and the trailer chugged its way to the track.

The early crew is enjoying a night of peace and relaxation, after 4000km of driving, before late crew arrives tomorrow afternoon.  It should be considered an accomplishment that no kangaroos were killed during this 4000km drive, no flat tires, no break downs.  I am very thankful, and glad to be back in Darwin.  Pulling into the pits brought back a lot of memories.  After four long years, we are finally poised to bring MIT back into the solar car racing community.


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Toowoomba to Barcaldine

Day 2 of our trip is complete. We are at a campsite in Barcaldine, Queensland which happens to have free wireless internet. The rolling hills and trees we drove through yesterday changed to mostly flat roads and scrub bush.  But it’s getting hotter as we get closer to the outback and we had to keep the heat on in the Land Cruiser during the afternoon to prevent it from overheating.  There’s much less traffic on the roads, but we are seeing a lot of  road trains

We also saw a fair amount of live wildlife today in addition to the frequent roadkill. When we were stopped in Miles earlier today, we saw a small herd of emu.  There were about eight in total.

As the sun was setting, we began to see more and more kangaroos near the highway.  We really had to watch out after dark and honk the horn to get them to move off the road.

 Here’s a picture of Alex.  He’s dressed interestingly, but at least he didn’t hit any kangaroos with the Land Cruiser.  Any live kangaroos, that is. 

In case you were dubious about the campsite with internet, here’s picture of our internet hotspot around the picnic table.

And lastly, a picture from dawn on Coogee Beach.  Alex, Andy and Annette stayed in Coogee Beach while Chris and I were in Sydney.  We took a bus to meet up with them the morning before we left for Darwin.

Tomorrow our goal is to get as far as Camooweal.  If we have time, perhaps we’ll get to visit Camooweal Caves National Park.


(pictures: Chris Pentacoff)

On the road

We’re stopped at a public library in Miles, Queensland. We left Sydney yesterday morning and drove along the New England Highway to Toowoomba. The road was a littler hillier than anticipated, so Andy and Alex had a fun time driving in first and second gear. Today the road is much more flat and we’re averaging 100 km/h. By tonight we should be in Barcaldine or Longreach, which are almost exactly on the Tropic of Capricorn. I’ll keep this short because we have a long way to go today.
(photo: Fiona Hughes)

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Greening MIT

On September 14, MIT held its annual community fall break in Killian Court. The theme was “Greening MIT,” and we were invited to host a table.

Although we couldn’t display Eleanor (she’s being shipped to Australia!), people were still pretty enthusiastic. Mike and I talked with students about the team and solar car racing, and we picked up quite a few potential recruits. President Hockfield stopped by for a few minutes to inquire about WSC, which was nice.

We’ve been busy with teaching new members and prepping for the race. Less than a month to go!

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