Design of U of T's new solar car unveiled
Members of U of T's famed Blue Sky Solar Racing Team are dusting off their racing gear and once again readying themselves to hit the road for another round of competitions.
The team unveiled their newly finished solar-powered car called Azure to fans and Faculty on Aug. 7, in advance of the World Solar Challenge - a competition that pits the best solar car teams against each other in the Australian outback
The car, which is the most recent of six generations of solar racing cars, is designed, built and raced by students. It weighs 200 kilograms and is expected to clock an impressive 80 kilometers per hour, with a top speed of 140 kilometers per hour.
On October 16, two dozen members of the team will compete against some of the world’s best universities and colleges in a five-day racing challenge. Engineers will drive their independently-built solar car a total of 3,000 kilometres from Darwin to Adelaide across Australia’s rough terrain in an effort to be crowned No. 1.
The unveiling of their latest car means much more than just celebrating with friends and family; it’s the end of an era for some who have dedicated the last four years of their life to the project, said Josh Switnicki, the team’s managing director. For the fourth-year computer engineering student and his colleagues, it meant overcoming a host of technical and personal challenges that threatened to derail the project.
“Creating something like this especially from scratch is difficult, but not impossible,” said Switnicki, who over the years has spent between 10 to 60 hours each week working on the vehicle. “We’ve encountered problems, but being in a group like this makes overcoming these challenges easier and helped us grow.”
Eric Ma, a biomedical engineering student and business operations manager for the group, agreed. “Other good parts [about the process] have also been the challenges, both technical and interpersonal,” he added. “They all play an important role in the development of the team and its individual members.”
However, the solar car team is more than just a student organization that races cars for fun. Unlike other groups, advocacy and education is an important part of the group’s mandate as they spend as much time in classrooms teaching as they do in labs. Recently, members of the team visited Hillcrest Community School to help secondary students build their own solar cars.
Regardless of whether the team wins or loses the World Solar Challengethey’re already winners, at least in the eyes of Ma.
“The most rewarding part of this is to see the car coming together from something that was once only real on paper. Designing it and seeing it on a computer is certainly different from touching and feeling the car right in front of you.”