04 Jan Looking back on 2014
The team’s design cycle for the next race began in earnest in June of 2014, with the release of the 2015 World Solar Challenge regulations. (Naturally, this coincided with a long lull in our blog updates–but rest assured, things are coming along!)
Here’s a quick look back at what our team has been up to for the past calendar year. Stay tuned as well for upcoming posts on the completion of our next car’s aerobody design, as well as a visit to Williams F1 in the United Kingdom!
In January, the team was finally back on the same continent. The race crew from the 2013 World Solar Challenge and team members that remained in California all returned to campus for winter quarter. (Read our winter quarter blog update here.)
We selected our team’s new leadership for 2014-2015, and then recruited and welcomed aboard the first round of new members for the next cycle.
Members dove right in with projects that are perfect for the “off-season” (the period of time before the new rules come out)–designing and testing new wheel covers, electrical boards, array laminates, composites stack-ups, and more.
During spring quarter, the team participated in a plethora of outreach events, ranging from an undergraduate research symposium (ASURPS) to visiting Tesla and Mission Motors to showcases for Admit Weekend. We brought Luminos to visit two of our team’s sponsors, Volkswagen’s ERL and STMicroelectronics.
In May, we had two unique opportunities to celebrate the accomplishments of our last cycle. First, SSCP had its first Open Garage Talk. Part of a fantastic series hosted by CARS and the REVS Program at Stanford, we had a panel of Luminos race crew members share their experience of racing a solar car across the outback. (Read & watch more here.) The following weekend, our Business & Logistics Lead, Rachel Abril, did a fantastic job speaking for Solar Car at TEDxStanford (read more & watch the video here).
Our new and old members alike continued work on various projects, some of which culminated in their use on our Spring Quarter Test Drive. We returned to the Central Valley for a weekend with Luminos, giving new members a taste of solar car on-road testing and racing procedures. New members learned about convoy radio communications, roadside stop protocol, and some even had a chance to drive in Luminos!
Just as the school year wrapped up, we received a visit from Wendy Matthews, WSC’s participant liaison, and the much-anticipated release of the 2015 race regulations. Team members left for the summer to intern at companies from Tesla to Lytro to GM, returning to the shop after-hours to continue work on solar car, and the design cycle for WSC 2015 began.
Over the summer, the team began work on the aerodynamic design for the next car. For the first time in SSCP’s history, we had what we came to consider an Aero Team. They developed both the new car’s aerobody as well as a new toolchain for the team to use in aerodynamic design. (Stay tuned for more on 2015 Aero, coming soon.)
Meanwhile, other members of the Mechanical Team were hard at work on the concurrent design of the car’s suspension. During July, Mech Team members Anna, Susan, and Lisa volunteered as Observers on the 2014 American Solar Challenge (ASC)–an 8-day race from Austin to Minneapolis. SSCP hasn’t competed in ASC since 2010, but it was a great experience for both learning and establishing connections with other teams.
We had a visit from the founder & former president of Sunpower, Dr. Richard Swanson, as well as President Alejandro Toledo of Peru and his wife Eliane Karp. This visit was arranged for a radio interview with Stanford radio station KZSU. (Read blog post “The team meets two presidents” here.) We also donated our Luminos molds to a high school team from Bend, Oregon, who will use our molds for their next car. We’re looking forward to seeing Lumi-dos out there!
Just before school started, we met up with Team Eindhoven, the 2013 WSC Cruiser Class champions hailing from The Netherlands, as they passed through the Bay Area on their US tour. Members from UC Berkeley’s solar car team, CalSol, were able to make the visit as well, making for a great tri-team event at our shop!
In a change from previous cycles, the team continued aerodynamic design into fall quarter. After much discussion, we pushed back our carbon fiber layups to spring quarter in favor of having more time to for aero work. This paid off during fall quarter, as we continued to iterate and improve our aerobody design.
Fall quarter was also a busy quarter for many other aspects of the car. Designs for a new battery pack continued to gain ground, boards were developed by members of the Electrical Team, chassis and suspension work were integrated into various aerobody iterations, the Array Team decided on cell layouts, and much more. Our Business Team was hard at work soliciting sponsorships, handling outreach, and sourcing early materials.
As attention turned towards the finals frenzy, our Aero Team also began the frenzy of finalizing design and preparing files for manufacturing. Over winter break, the team sent out the first part of the 2015 car to our friends at Christensen Fiberglass Tooling–the Michigan-based company that will make the molds for our car’s carbon-fiber shell.
At the same time, eight of our team’s core leadership, along with five graduate students from the DDL (our neighbors at VAIL, the Dynamic Design Lab under Prof. Chris Gerdes), flew out to the UK for a two-day workshop with Williams Advanced Engineering (a relation of Williams F1 Team). Stay tuned for a post about this trip!
Some members traveled across Europe following our visit to Williams; others enjoyed relaxing at home. We’ve all had a brief but restful hiatus from solar car over the holidays. As we transition into the new year, it’s been incredible to look back on all that’s happened over 2014.
In the span of twelve months, we’ve come a long ways in both growing as a team and designing a car. In the following twelve months, we’ll have built and raced another solar car across Australia. There’s an undoubtedly immense amount of work between now and then, but there are also some incredible people that make up SSCP–ready to take on 2015.