The Stanford Solar Car Project (SSCP) is one of America’s top solar car teams, and among the best undergraduate teams in the world. The project began in 1989 as an entirely student-run, non-profit organization fueled by its members’ passion for environmentally-minded technology. The team designs, builds, tests, and races solar-powered vehicles as part of a global initiative called the World Solar Challenge, a 2000-mile solar trek across the Australian Outback.
As an academic effort, the project provides a unique opportunity for Stanford students to gain valuable hands-on engineering and business experience in raising community awareness of the power of solar energy and the increasing need for lighter, more aerodynamic, and more efficient vehicles. The team operates on a two-year project cycle that becomes more than another extracurricular activity. Students on the team balance their involvement with work and academics, but always remain dedicated to the collective effort of building from the conceptual to the racing phase one of the world’ most efficient vehicles.
Members usually join SSCP as undergraduates with little to no engineering background and gradually build their knowledge while working on a vehicle. Coordinating a project of this magnitude also requires considerable management and planning, allowing students to develop these vital business skills in an engineering environment. With this approach, the team has fostered nine generations of award-winning vehicles, proving that a hands-on education in creative design and execution produces impressive results.
Members who graduate from SSCP go on to work with some of the most cutting-edge technologies and firms today, such as Tesla Motors, Nanosolar Inc, and other companies they had encountered through the SSCP as undergrads. Even in fields as diverse as cancer therapeutics research and software marketing former team members are at work, leveraging many skills they first developed working with SSCP.
“Participating in the Stanford Solar Car Project was a wonderful experience for me that really taught me how to make an engineering design function in the real world in a way that classes never could. For me this was one of the best ways to learn these hands-on lessons that I am still using today.”
– JB Straubel, Chief Technical Officer, Tesla Motors, & SSCP Alumnus