2013 Cross-Country Roadtrip to Aerodyn Wind Tunnel

On Saturday, June 15th, the Stanford Solar Car Team embarked on an epic road trip to the Aerodyn wind tunnel in Mooresville, North Carolina.

Here’s a summary of our week-long trip.

After some serious last-minute work, the team left California and almost immediately ran into some van engine trouble while climbing the Sierras into Nevada.
When the engine trouble got bad, the team stopped at an auto parts shop in Elko, Nevada and Matt, an EE major from Missouri State. Matt was working at the auto parts store and recognized our solar car, as he, too, had participated in solar car racing with the Missouri State team. He immediately helped us discover that our van had a misfire on piston three, and sold us the parts we needed. We were in need of a shop where we could quickly fix up the van, but most shops in the region were closed.

Matt offered to help us and took us to a friend’s shop. This friend, John, turned out to be a record-holding Bonneville Salt Flat racer! John and company showed us around their shop, a super-cool garage setup next to their house. He and his team were extremely knowledgeable and generous. We thank them again for their help!

With the team van now fixed, we began some serious driving in order to make up for lost time. We drove continuously through several states, stopping only for gas and restroom breaks, until we reached Louisville, Kentucky and the home of Mr. and Mrs. Zbrozek, the parents of a former team lead. Weary and dirty, the team reached the house just as it began to rain. After enjoying actual showers, much-needed rest, and some delicious non-McDonald’s food cooked our hosts, the team thanked the Zbrozeks and took off to Charlotte, North Carolina.

This glorious last stretch of the trip to Aerodyn ended with a team reunion. The road trip team met up with Wesley, Max, and Denis at a local hotel. We all got some rest and woke up the next day to a pleasant surprise. A Waffle House restaurant next to the hotel served us a really good breakfast, at surprisingly-low prices. No, we were not punked; the Waffle House actually had ridiculously-low prices on all their yummy items. Southern-style breakfasts, however, take a toll on your arteries and such, as we discovered with the heavy feeling which follows bacon, grits, cheesy eggs, and butter-covered pancakes.

Finally we reached Aerodyn and it was as if we were once again a solar car team and not a bunch of weary roadtrippers. Aerodyn provided us with a berth for wind tunnel prep and we got right to work. We loved Aerodyn’s great facility, very friendly and crazy-smart staff, and complimentary snacks. We saw NASCAR stock cars everywhere, including in the wind tunnel itself, and even got to see a NASCAR team run tests on its car.

With prep and set-up done, the team mounted the solar car in the wind tunnel and sat down in the comfy control room chairs to watch Aerodyn staff member Gary work the controls. While we waited for data, Gary told us about his work on the Apollo 11 aero design and his key role in the development of NASCAR’s safety-oriented anti-roll roof flaps.

Our tests went very well and we were thrilled at the match of our aero results to our aero calculations. We look forward to seeing how Luminos’ aero body performs in Australia.

Our way back to California was less eventful but more scenic and restful. As we found, more drivers and fewer cars means more sleep for all. We made it back to the shop and got the car rolling overnight for some quick testing.


  • Avatar
    Posted at 01:42h, 03 July

    pictures? 😀

  • Avatar
    John Z
    Posted at 16:45h, 05 July

    We were delighted to have you as our guests!
    We got to see Luminos, which is a beautiful car and very well crafted. More importantly, Branka and I got to spend time with a new generation of SSCP talent. You all are wonderful young folks, and we wish you great success in this year’s race!


  • Avatar
    Ted Ford,MD
    Posted at 21:51h, 08 July

    It is very cool that the masters of the old technology could give a helping hand to the future masters of the new technology!

    Our accomplishments often rest upon the shoulders of those who came before us.