CORVALLIS, Ore. — They’re orange and black, but proud of their gold! Oregon State University’s Solar Vehicle Team (OSUSVT) members are back from last weekend’s solar car race, but they say the experience was more than winning the first place trophy.
It was a blistering 105 degrees in Austin, Texas last weekend – conditions that helped power Oregon State University’s solar vehicle farther than any other team’s car. At the end of the race, OSU logged 661 miles, or 193 laps, around the Circuit of the Americas raceway. Oregon State won first place in this year’s Formula Sun Grand Prix.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Kat Han, co-founder of OSUSVT. “We went in thinking maybe we’ll get on the podium this year – we really hope for this – but we also went in with one of the most functional, intelligent, and hardworking teams that we’ve ever had.”
The Phoenix, a car made by OSUSVT, a group mainly of engineering students, drove all 661 miles on nothing but solar energy.
“You really had to balance power consumption with speed,” said Simon Crocker, one of the drivers. “That was our main challenge.”
Despite the first place win, the team encountered plenty of problems and say they would not have won if it weren’t for the help they received from other schools. The Phoenix had motor problems early on. Immediately, team members from Missouri University of Science and Technology gave OSU their back-up motor. But it was not before long that the back-up motor started making unusual noises.
Northwestern University of Illinois was not able to race because of a broken suspension, but the team jumped in to help OSU.
“As soon as we said: ‘We need a motor!’ they pulled their motor straight off in just a few minutes and handed it to us,” said Han. “And: ‘We don’t know if we have enough tires!’ and they pulled their wheels and tires right off and handed them to us.”
The race is competitive, but it is known as a “cooperative” race, where teams help each other.
“This has been a fantastic experience,” said Crocker. “From what I understand, there aren’t very many places where you can get this experience as a freshman.”
The goal is to help each participant do as well as possible. Oregon State students say it is not just about winning, it is about learning how to be a better engineer, and about helping others along the way.
“There should be cooperation among teams even if we are competing against each other,” said Sami Al-Abdrabbuh, a solar team member. “Because eventually, if we want solar cars to get on the road and to be sustainable, we should work together.”
Oregon State students did their fair share of returning the favors and helping other teams with repairs. So many repairs in fact, that OSU took home the sportsmanship award as well.
“I think first place looks good, but I think receiving the sportsmanship award really shows that OSU cares about everybody,” said Han. “That we care about other teams, that we want to see everyone succeed, and that we want to support everybody. That’s really the image that we wanted to show the rest of the world this year.”
The solar team is already preparing for next year’s solar competition. Members are also hoping to build a new solar car for the 2015 World Solar Challenge in the outback of Australia. The team is starting to fundraise for the project, and those interested in sponsoring the team could get their name on the solar vehicle. The OSUSVT will also be at Da Vinci Days in Corvallis to show off the Phoenix beginning July 19. For more information, visit the team’s website by clicking here.