From July 1-6, SolarPack, a group of NC State students who work together on campus to build and race a solar powered car, participated in the Formula Sun Grand Prix in Austin, Texas. This was a competition to see who could build the best vehicle that was fueled by solar power. While the goal of the competition is to have the car that is able to complete the most laps, the entirety of the event is much more complicated.
Cody Biedermann, the former director of Solar Pack, explained how the scoring works throughout the competition.
“It’s really based on the lap total, but you can get deducted from your lap total from any number of infringement on their regulations,” Biedermann said. “So like efficiency, practicality, well-designed stuff, they take all of that into account.”
SolarPack was able to win the Rescue Van Doorman Award. Adam Lineberger, director of SolarPack and fourth-year mechanical engineering student, stated that many people may not even be able to make it on the track for the races, due to a variety of possible issues with their solar vehicles. At the beginning of the competition, only 4 out of 20 were able to start and by the end of the week, 11 out of 20 of the vehicles were able to get onto the track.
Biedermann spoke about the experiences that the team gained from going to the Formula Sun Grand Prix and what they learned.
“We accomplished our greatest goal, which was learning what it means to be a solar car team,” Biedermann said. “What we did there was to build a foundation that we can take throughout the rest of the years of SolarPack, in that it’s a learning experience – we knew we weren’t going to go there and bust out and beat everyone and put down the most laps. We came in with a lot of issues due to timing and circumstance. There was a lot of stuff we didn’t know we would face, and a lot of mountains that we had to climb. But by the end of the week, we had crossed all of those mountains, but not in time for us to actually get on the track.”
Though these lessons and trials taught SolarPack how to be a good solar-car team, that is not the only goal that they are striving for.
“We don’t want to be like normal solar car teams necessarily: Just build a car, win a race, it’s super-efficient or whatever,” Lineberger said. “The team started to promote the advent of sustainable transportation and prove that it can be practical and still look good. Be sustainable, and run on the sun. That’s kind of what we’re about.”
Biedermann said that the solar cars were only a step toward what they are truly wanting to do because it was a quick way to get a start toward their goals.
SolarPack is composed of a large variety of people, according to Lineberger. The team is split into teams that focus on the electrical aspects, vehicle dynamics, systems architecture, structure, business and in the past even an industrial design team. Lineberger described how the teams meet throughout the school year as well.
“I think earlier in the semester we met every two weeks with a general body meeting with everybody,” Lineberger said. “Then every sub-team would meet once a week or however they saw fit to get their work done.”
SolarPack will be at many different events around campus at the beginning of this fall semester to spread the word about the team and get more people to join. If you want to learn more about SolarPack, follow them on Twitter and Instagram at @wolfpacksolar or go to their website at https://solarpacknc.com.