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Formula Sun Grand Prix
American Solar Challenge
Tulsa, OK -
- ASC 2010 Results
5. Missouri S&T
9. New Paltz
11. Iowa State
12. Texas Austin
13. Illinois State
- FSGP 2010 Results
7. New Paltz
8. Missouri S&T
9. Illinois State
10. Texas Austin
11. Iowa State
14. Western Michigan
2010 American Solar Challenge
Car Name: Anthelion
Project 9: 2008 - 2010
Route: Tulsa, OK - Chicago, IL
Duration: 1100 miles
Dates: June 19-26
Results: 11th place of 13 teams
Saturday, June 26 - Team PrISUm Crosses Naperville, IL Finish Line
At 9:00 all the teams participated in a short parade route around the Illinois State University campus and then lined up for the official starting line at 10:00. There was a sizable crowd at the start of the race day eager to see all of the solar car teams off to their final race destination of Naperville, IL.
Team PrISUm set off shortly after 10:00 and ran at or near the speed limit all the way to the finish line. We ended up passing four teams along the way, and were the 8th team to pass the finish line. Despite our improved finishing position, we were unable to overcome the time penalties from the first half of the race and remain in 11th place overall.
At the end of the race, we were greeted by a warm reception of ISU alumni and families of team members. Everyone was thrilled to watch the team run across the finish line with Anthelion. There were lots of questions about the electrical issues that held us up during the first half of the race but mostly people were excited to see the car working well at the end of the race.
Once all the teams arrived, team members engaged in the traditional race shirt swapping extravaganza. After that dinner was served and the teams assembled for the awards ceremony. Since most of the teams were wearing newly acquired shirts from competing universities, it was amusing to see such a mix of team shirts when the winning teams were called up to accept their awards and take a photo.
Tomorrow, we will be displaying our car starting at 9:00 am at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. This will be a busy event with a great opportunity for public outreach. In addition, all the teams will get free passes to explore this world class museum. In the afternoon, Team PrISUm will pack up and head back to Ames.
The past month has been filled with challenges and triumphs that kept the team going day in and day out. It has been great learning experience for everyone involved. We would like to thank every one of our sponsors who made it possible for us to participate in this competition. Based on our recent experiences, we will be making improvements to Anthelion over the coming year in anticipation of the Formula Sun Grand Prix track race next summer and beginning work on a brand new solar car for 2012. Thanks for following the team race blog. Feel free to send us an email if you have any unanswered questions or comments for the team.
Friday, June 25 - Over 190 Miles Completed Today
For the first time during this competition, Team PrISUm was able to run the entire race day starting at 9:00 am. Anthelion drove approximately 195 miles today from just south of Alton, IL to the third race stage stop at Illinois State University in Normal, IL. A brief stop was made around 2:00 in the afternoon for a bathroom break and a driver change. We arrived at the checkpoint at 3:25 and got a half hour of charging in before the stage stop closed at 4:00. The car continues to run great and towards the end of the race day we were driving at 50 miles per hour.
At the checkpoint, the team visited with many past team members who stopped by to check on our progress. We also had moderate traffic from the general public making their rounds to look at all the solar cars. Tonight should be a relatively easy night for team members because there are no major repairs to be made on the car.
Tomorrow will be a 100 mile sprint to the finish line in Naperville, IL. Many teams will be running the speed limit the entire route and we expect to be doing this as well. Our battery pack should be nearly fully charged at the beginning of the day and we expect it to be mostly drained by the time we cross the finish line.
Thursday, June 24 - Most Successful Race Day Yet
The mood is up within the PrISUm race team today. Although some issues held up our departure time until mid day, after that the car ran reliably for 6 hours until the end of the race day. While, we weren't quite able to make the Alton, IL checkpoint on time, the team is very pleased with the day's performance. It was by far the most challenging day so far in terms of the race route with lots of hills, narrow bridges, a high speed stretch on the interstate, and long winding uphill grades. Anthelion handled all of this very well, averaging between 35 and 45 miles per hour. We ended up passing several other teams throughout day.
A working telemetry system made our driving strategy much more effective by allowing us to carefully monitor the battery pack condition and the array input. The solar array has generally been producing between 1000 and 1200 watts with peaks of about 1400 watts. The weather for the competition could hardly be better. There's been no rain or complete cloud cover during any of the race days. While the sweltering summer days don't always sit well with team members making roadside repairs, we haven't had a problem keeping the car charged up.
Tomorrow we anticipate another long day of driving with the goal of reaching the Normal, IL stage stop before it closes at 4:00 pm. If the car runs as well as it did today, this shouldn't be too difficult.
Wednesday, June 23 - Half Way Through the Race Route With Little Improvement
Despite the tepid optimism last night, today proved to be our least successful race day yet. During the morning charging session, we blew some fuses along with the parking brake light switch. These repairs alone pushed back our race day start time about an hour and a half, but the death blow came when we realized that our turn signals and break lights were not functioning. We were stuck in the middle of nowhere with no way to legally drive the car on the road. Left with few options, we decided to trailer the car to the next stage stop, once again racking up a substantial time penalty.
Perhaps the one benefit to this situation is that we got lots of extra time for charging with our array and now have a fully charged pack for tomorrow morning. In what has become the usual routine for the team, we will be working on the car's electrical system late into the night. So far, half of the race route is finished and we have trailered over half of the time. This leaves us with bleak prospects for improving our race position, even if we eventually succeed in getting the car to work flawlessly. However, the experience that the race crew is gaining during this event is worth far more than any race trophy.
We are constantly forced to come up with creative solutions to problems on the fly to keep the car driving with very limited resources. We are also learning valuable lessons for the next project about the importance of testing and optimizing the car before departing for a competition.
Tuesday, June 22 - A Glimmer of Hope
The team was unable to leave the Topeka stage stop at the designated starting time this morning because the electrical repairs inside the battery enclosure took longer than expected. Thanks to some assistance from a University of Michigan team member we were eventually able to finish and test the repaired system. This fix is a band aid rather than a permanent solution because we have neither the time nor the spare parts to fully address the problem at the moment.
Nevertheless, an hour and a half late, we hit the road and ran between 35 and 45 miles per hour all morning. We had to stop relatively briefly several times throughout the day to cool the battery pack, which was overheating again since our powerful fan was fried in yesterday's electronics melt-down. Our support crew purchased a replacement fan that we will install later tonight.
Towards the end of the day, our pack drained quite a bit and we were forced to charge with the array on the side of the road for a several hours before continuing. Around 6:00 pm, we found a place to stop for the night, about 77 miles short of the checkpoint we were trying to meet.
Our pace is still too slow with too many stops and delays to have a competitive race day but we are encouraged by the fact that none of our electronics boards failed today. This means that instead of fixing broken components tonight, we can instead concentrate on making the car function better. The top priorities right now are getting a working dashboard so that the driver can monitor the car's speed and current draw as well as fixing the wireless telemetry system, which has been down since the start of the road race. If we can fix these two problems, it will be much easier to drive more efficiently and to implement and effective race strategy based on the car's current charge and array input conditions.
Tomorrow is going to be a long day to make up lost time, but our goal is to get to the Rolla, MO stage stop without having to trailer the car. It won't be easy but assuming our boards continue to hold up and the new fan keeps the battery temperature in check, we are hopeful that we can achieve our objective.
Monday, June 21 - Another Disappointing Day
Once again, Anthelion performed admirably for the first two hours of driving this morning, cruising between 40 and 45 miles per hour. As a whole, the mechanical systems on the car are performing great. The brakes are excellent, the suspension is functional, and tire wear is minimal. Based on driver consensus, the two primary mechanical areas that are still in need of improvement are steering and seat comfort. The turning radius on the car is good compared to our last vehicle, but it takes constant driver attention to actively keep the car moving straight down the highway at cruising speed. Admittedly, the seat padding in the car has not yet been optimized, but currently drivers are becoming uncomfortable after being in the car for several hours on end. These are some things that the team will undoubtedly be looking at further in the future.
Despite the best efforts of our race crew, the car's electrical system remains sketchy. The new battery box cooling system seems to have done the trick, but that wasn't enough to solve fundamental electrical problems with power board. Fortunately, up to this point, the team has had enough spare parts to replace blown components, but we are now starting to run thin on important and hard to find parts. When we stopped on the side of an on ramp for our first driver swap today, the car wouldn't start up again and our project director identified major blown components on power board. After an hour of working on the system, the car drove briefly but we lost current monitoring on the battery pack and couldn't safely continue to drive the car. At this point, we pulled off the road for what ended up being a 5 hour stop.
During our down time, we charged the pack with the solar array while the electrical crew struggled unsuccessfully to get the car working again. Finally, we packed up the car and trailered to the Topeka, KS stage stop. This results in a substantial time penalty for us and leaves us in 11th place among the 14 teams competing in the American Solar Challenge. This evening, the electrical team has continued to work towards better solutions for making the car run reliably, but we won't have access to the electrical boards in our battery box until the morning after they are released from their nightly impound. We hope to be able to implement the fixes during our morning charge time before the race day begins.
It is painful for us to come to the realization that Anthelion is crippled by certain electrical components. There is so much potential in this car - the solar array is enormous and develops plenty of power, the mechanical systems are solid, and the car looks absolutely gorgeous soaring down the road at 50 miles per hour. However, the unreliable electrical system puts a damper on all of the things that we did right with this project. We are understandably disappointed, but have not lost hope and will continue to push on as long as we possibly can.
Sunday, June 20 - Overheating Batteries Slows Team PrISUm
The American Solar Challenge began today at noon as teams began to leave the Bass Pro Shop parking lot in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Each team was separated by 1 minute intervals. Team PrISUm departed at 12:09. Innitially, the car worked fine and we passed several teams within the first hour of racing. However, we soon began to experience temperature faults that caused the car to shut off momentarily several times before eventually we couldn't get it to restart. Fortunately, we were at an air conditioned Subway and were able to bring the battery box inside to cool down for about 15 minutes. After that, the car ran great for a while. We were able to make great time cruise ing at 55 to 60 miles per hour on the smooth highway. Unfortunately, the batteries continued to overheat every 45 minutes or so for the remainder of the day, forcing us to stop and cool them before continuing.
At the end of the day, we missed our checkpoint by 6 minutes resulting in the loss of an hour time credit for the race. Tonight we are working on a new ducting system that will bring external air into the battery box for bettter cooling. The regulations required us to set the max battery temperature at 113 degrees farenheit. Considering how warm it is outside, it's understandable that the car is getting hot. We are hoping that if we can keep the battery box a few degrees cooler, that will allow us to run a lot longer without problems.
Tomorrow, we need to make it to the Topeka, KS stage stop, which will not be an easy feat unless we are able to run reliably throghout the day. We stopped for the night near the Neosho, MO checkpoint and set up camp on the side of the road. The team plans to work through the night again to implement the new ducting system by morning.
Saturday, June 19 - A Day of Outreach
After a decent night's sleep, the team set off to the Bass Pro Shop in Broken Arrow, OK, where many of the teams displayed their cars in the parking lot all afternoon. It was a good occasion for talking to interested folks on the street and meeting some of the race observers that will be traveling with the teams during the American Solar Challenge.
In the evening, when we arrived back at the hotel, there was a gathering of people who were all interested in seeing the car. Some of them talked with us for over an hour as we unpacked and organized our vehicles. During this time, we finally got around to renovating our race trailer with new sponsor decals that arrived at Motorsport Ranch in Texas a few days ago.
Throughout the day, our electrical team worked on making working backup boards for the car and running through a number of electrical tests on the car. They are feeling good about the condition of the electrical system as we prepare for the start of the American Solar Challenge tomorrow at noon.
Tonight we were greeted by four team members who are joining up with us for the remainder of the race because they couldn't get enough time off from work to attend the entire race. This should help us split up daily tasks more efficiently. We will be grateful for the extra hands, considering that we have had one of the smallest race crews of any team here.