Solar powered cars race through Gering | educatIon

A series of quirky, low-slung and simple vehicles traveled through Gering earlier this week. People stared and photographed them as they drove by on M Street, curious about the solar-powered cars. Drivers in the American Solar Challenge passed through the area as part of the six-state race.

ASC is a collegiate competition where university students design, build and drive solar-powered vehicles around pre-determined routes. This year’s course follows the Oregon Trail from Independence, Missouri, to Twin Falls, Idaho.

The racers left Independence on July 9th and are expected to arrive in Twin Falls around July 16th.

“Primarily, this is designed to be an educational experience for students to provide hands-on hands-on learning,” said event director Gail Lueck. “The teams are responsible for everything: designing, building and testing the solar car, as well as all project management, fundraising, public relations.”

In addition to providing students with valuable knowledge and experience, the competitions also help promote solar mobility skills.

People are also reading…

The event originally started as Sunrayce in 1990 and has been held mostly every two years since then. The 2018 ASC race, won by teams from Australia and Italy, also went to Gering.

“This is mainly for bragging rights between the different universities; it’s a brain sport in that sense. The winner goes home with a trophy, there is also a travel trophy that goes from the first place winner of each American Solar Challenge to the next,” Lueck said.

Drivers and their vehicles from nine schools went through Gering on Monday or Tuesday, depending on how far along the course they were.

These included the University of Kentucky; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; University of California Berkeley; University of Minnesota Twin Cities; University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; Appalachian State University; and Principia College.

Teams from Canadian schools Polytechnique Montreal and Ecole de Technologie Superieur also drove through the city. The Iowa State University vehicle qualified, but suffered a malfunction at Grand Island and retired from the race.

A total of 21 teams, 17 from the United States and four from Canada, were considered to participate in the qualifying rounds of the Formula Sun Grand Prix.

“It’s an endurance race,” said head timer and team coordinator Evan Stumpges. “It’s about speed and distance, but a lot is about reliability and having a car that’s going to last.”

Single and multi-passenger cars race under different rules in two different but simultaneous races. Single-passenger cars are rated based on mileage; they can move along optional loops for extra points.

Multi-passenger vehicles are rated based on their efficiency and practicality. All vehicle drivers must respect traffic rules; Speeding or not running stop signs will result in fines.

Drivers had to stop at Scotts Bluff National Monument for 45 minutes to recharge their vehicles and themselves. The first car to arrive was crewed by the University of Minnesota team.

“We maxed out at about 70 miles per hour, and for this (trip), we’d go about 62 for everything except when we hit a train station,” said Chase Anderson, one of the drivers for the University of Minnesota. “Freya” car.

He said the car is a durable vehicle. As part of the multi-person class, Anderson drove with one other passenger; drivers must leave after a certain time.

“It’s survived so far and I hope it survives forever,” he said, adding that the biggest challenge while driving is managing the vehicle’s battery current. “We haven’t had any catastrophic events with the battery in terms of current draw and driving, but we don’t want to entertain the possibility.”

Freya, part of Minnesota’s sixth generation of solar cars, was first built in 2018 as a four-seater. It has since competed in a previous ASC race and undergone extensive modifications.

“Electrically, it’s a brand new car. We have completely new boards and a new battery, but structurally it’s the same Freya,” said Minnesota team captain Amber Zierden.

Anderson said the various members of the team must trust each other to ensure everything runs smoothly

“I just have great friends who both encouraged me to join and understood that my passions lay somewhere here, and after joining I realized they were absolutely right and it’s a great thing to be a part of.” Anderson said.

All students have extremely high potential in their fields, he said.

“This team is full of some of the most dedicated, hardworking and passionate people I have ever met,” said Zierden. “We definitely have a team atmosphere. We like to be there for each other in any way we can, which is critical to running a solar car race.”

No team member is familiar with all aspects of the car, she continued. Most teams are more than a dozen strong, and some may be more than double that. They must believe in each other to succeed.

“It’s pretty stressful, I’ll be honest, but invigorating,” Zierden said. “There’s nothing more exciting than building a solar car from the ground up and then seeing it hit the road for the first time.”

While at the monument, the teams took pictures with visitors and taught them more about what solar-powered vehicles are like. After leaving Gering behind, the competitors continued their journey to the next pit stop in Casper, Wyoming.

We are always interested in hearing about news in our community. Tell us what’s going on!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.