Notes from a long Aero winter

The team is excited to shake off a long period of radio silence and share that we’ve successfully wrapped up the aerodynamic design of our upcoming 2019 competition vehicle! Aero team members Sam Kim, Isabella Rios, Kathleen Miller & Julia Gordon, led by co-leads Jason Trinidad & Yuji Sugimoto, worked long hours through the spring, summer and fall of last year to produce SSCP’s smallest and most aerodynamic design yet. After working out some last logistical details, we shipped mold patterns out to our friends at Bayview Composites in late January.

small sundae tunnel

Because we were lucky enough to have 5 aero team members sponsored by the School of Engineering and working on the design full time this summer, we were able to spend time not just pumping out iterations of cars, but also fleshing out our design documentation and formalizing our process for coming up with each new car. We hope that this will ease the way for future teams so that our designs continue to improve.

For readers unfamiliar with our process, each new car’s outer shell is the product of many hours of iterative design work using a CAD program to model new candidate aerobodies, and then running them through a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulator to compare magnitude, direction and location of different drag forces on the car. Each car we design is generally the product of anywhere from 40 to 80+ successive iterations. This cycle we used NX for surface design and Pointwise for meshing – big thanks to our sponsors at Siemens and Pointwise!

The summer crew also took it upon themselves to do some testing and verification of our previous design, Sundae. In particular we wanted to learn more about how exactly seams and bumps in the carbon affected airflow, as well as whether the streamlines around our windshield matched what we were seeing in our CFD simulations. The aerodynamics engineers over at Specialized Bicycles in Morgan Hill were kind enough to allow us to squeeze our car into their in-house wind tunnel to run a couple quick tests; getting the car inside required some tricky maneuvering up a wheelchair access ramp, but was well worth the effort! Our team had a great time talking with their engineers, getting advice and feedback and learning a bit more about what it takes to design all sorts of bikes and what it’s like to work on aerodynamic design in an industry setting.


Sundae gets sideways







Although seeing a solar car in a wind tunnel is a pretty cool experience, we still love to get out on the road as much as possible! Our new members this summer got a chance to get Sundae back on the highway for a test drive in our classic Central Valley location, complete with a stop at the San Joaquin sandwich shop and all.

IMG_6445Image from iOS


 Other highlights of Aero Summer included team beach trips, go-karting, and of course lots of long days together at VAIL! And while we won’t share the full car just yet, we promise it’s unlike anything you’ve seen from SSCP before.



Wrapping up with some more recent news, the team was featured in the February edition of National Geographic as part of an article about Silicon Valley – go check us out! And check back later this month as we continue to bring the blog up to speed with shop happenings and progress on our upcoming car.

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