It’s finally here -- the 2013 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge -- after almost two years of preparation, from designing, to building, and finally testing the car. The process took us from the classroom, to Ann Arbor parking lots, to the Australian outback.
Pole position was decided through fast laps. On October 5, each team drove the Hidden Valley racetrack with the aim of finishing the fastest. While we know that the results of the hot lap don’t necessarily translate to the results of the race, getting a faster time than the other asymmetric cars in our class bolstered our confidence in the design and manufacture of our car. Throughout our months of testing, our design proved successful in extreme weather.
Unfortunately, the night of day four of the race, our car was blown off the road and crashed into a ditch. Thankfully, everyone was okay, but the car withstood damage to the ribs, skid plates, and parts of the suspension. Normally, on the straight and mostly flat Stuart Highway, the car would’ve been fine, but the ill-timed gust pushed the car while it was turning onto a side street that had deep-water drainage ditches.
We spent the entire night fixing the car -- repairing the ribs and suspension. The morning after we tested the car in the parking lot, driving it in figure eights to make sure all the repaired systems were operational. We held our heads up high and finished the race! Go Blue!
Yes, naperlou, crashing and re-building is a time-honored tradition. I've always liked a comment from Gordn Moore, co-founder of Intel, about what is learned from such efforts: "With engineering, I view this year's failure as next year's opportunity to try it again. Failures are not something to be avoided. You want to have them happen as quickly as you can so you can make progress rapidly."
Great story. Crashing and fixing race cars is a time honored tradition. That your car could be fixed in the field is a good indicator of the design. I am sure that you all had lots of fun as well, and you will have some good stories to tell at the pub.
I checked the results and your team should be proud! You finished the race driving your solar vehicle. I saw that many participants had to trailer their vehicle. Nothing like a little real world challenges to better the engineering students. Your team will be better engineers from this experience.
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