Exhausted victory after just qualifying for ASC 2012!

Last summer, we pushed the envelope even further for the MSU Solar Car Team by qualifying for the American Solar Challenge for the first time in Michigan State University history. The American Solar Challenge 2012 was a 1600 mile cross country race from Rochester, New York to St. Paul, Minnesota. To qualify for the ASC 2012, our car had to pass a series of standards within the Mechanical, Electrical, Body, Array, Battery Protection, Driver safety, Dynamics, and Support Vehicle categories. Fortunately, we were able to pass each of those categories, compete in the qualifying track race, and embark on the road race. Unfortunately, the motor controller of our car broke down irrevocably on the first day of the ASC 2012, so we could not continue the competition.

Steve Zajac diagnosing the electrical systems after Brasidius’ break-down

The failure of our motor controller was part of the larger issue of a lack of reliability within our car. Several systems of our car, such as the motor, the motor controller, the rear view camera, and the blinkers, were not tested enough prior to the race. Other systems, such as our front and rear suspension, were over designed to the point where they absolutely would not break, however were far too heavy.

Armed with the knowledge earned by preparing for and competing in the American Solar Challenge 2012, we will continue to improve the MSU Solar Car Team. We are now starting the 2-year design cycle of Leonidas I, our second car in university history. This is an extremely exciting time for us, because the current team can now start a brand new car, instead of modifying the previous car. However, this great opportunity presents an unstructured problem; how do we design, build, and test a solar car from scratch?

In order to tackle this problem, we are imposing an iterative engineering design process. Today, we defined our primary goal with Leonidas:

“To complete the American Solar Challenge 2014 and to pass scrutineering on the first try.”

Thanks for reading!

James M.L. Miller

President, MSU Solar Car Team