SIUE’s Engineering Solar Car Team competed and won Best Finish in their class at the American Solar Challenge from July 6-22.
SIUE’s Engineering students built and designed their own solar-powered car, NOVA, based on funding from SIUE and donated materials.
The car is powered mainly by solar energy with few batteries installed for temporary storage and in case of inclement weather conditions.
The American Solar Challenge invites students from universities across the globe to attend and compete in their events.
The Challenge is divided into four main components: Scrutineering, Formula Sun Grand Prix Track Event, Public Display Day and The American Solar Challenge Road Event.
Held July 14-22, 15 of the 40 teams qualified to compete in the Road Event. Each team drove from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. traveling from Omaha, Nebraska to Bend, Oregon totaling over 1,700 miles.
During non-driving hours “teams can perform maintenance on the car, check the weather and determine their strategy for the next day,” according to the American Solar Challenge Guidelines.
To be qualified to enter the Road Event, each team goes through the process of “Scrutineering” where officials perform safety inspections.
According to Engineering Department Chair, Andy Lozowski, Scrutineering is the most difficult part of the competition.
The race is divided into three classes of cars — The Challenger (a quick and light-weight one-seater), The Cruiser (a multi-occupant vehicle with 2-4 passengers) and The Grandfather (a three-wheeled vehicle similar to those “from the past”).
SIUE’s car was the only car competing in The Grandfather class.
Winners of the Road Event are determined by the fastest time in which they reach their given destination. Graduate of SIUE’s School of Engineering, James Banner led the team to victory in its class.
According to Lozowski, each team needs adequate budgeting, marketing and huge team efforts to be able to compete in the Solar Car Race.
“This was the first year after all this time that we actually got the car that we were comfortable with putting on the road and actually participating in the race,” Lozowski said.
SIUE competed against several experienced teams including the University of Michigan, MIT, University of Minnesota, Georgia Tech, University of Illinois and Berkeley. SIUE entered and competed in its first Solar Car competition in 2005.
Senior mechanical engineering major Mark Naleway, of Bloomington, Illinois, said his role was to drive the solar car during the competition.
According to Naleway, the experience was challenging. However, the efforts and collaboration of the teams were worthwhile.
Naleway will be this year’s mechanical engineer director for the Solar Team.
“There’s this really awesome atmosphere at [the] race. It’s not as much a competition against each other as it is a competition against solar energy [and] against science.”
In previous years, the School of Engineering has helped other universities, including the University of Florida and the University of Illinois, build their solar car teams.
Solar Car Team adviser Steve Muren believes this accomplishment enhances the School of Engineering’s image and adds to SIUE’s legacy as a high-profile university.
“[There are] prestigious universities that are very well-known universities that participate in this project and we’re now shoulder-to-shoulder with those universities; they know who we are. It adds to the legacy of exposing us to a lot more people who may or may not in any other way have known who we are,” Muren said.
According to Lozowski, the goal of the Solar Car Team is to create a larger team and attend the international event in Australia in the coming years.
Lozowski and Naleway want students from all majors to feel invited to join the team.
“Our major thing right now is recruitment. Formerly the Solar Team was all about getting engineering majors involved in a project that will help them with their career paths, but now we really want to branch out to the rest of the school.
“We want to make a statement that, ‘Hey, solar car is an SIUE thing. It’s not an engineering thing; it’s everybody.’ If you’ve got any major we can find a place for you,” Naleway said.
The Solar Car Team invites students from all departments to attend one of their meetings held every Friday at 2 p.m. in the Engineering Building, room 2170.