30 Nov

We’re Back!

MSU Solar is back and better than ever!  With a fresh leadership team in place (Greg Stark: Electrical Team Lead, Aaron Feinauer: Mechanical Team Lead, and Michael Mazza: Business Team Lead), our team has swelled to around 60 members and enthusiasm for the project is at an all time high. This influx of fresh faces and enthusiasm has prompted some changes for the team. We have a new name, a new logo and most importantly, we’re beginning a new car! We are now MSU Solar Racing Team, or MSU SRT for short.

MSU SRT is full of new faces and fortunate to have the experience and expertise of its returning members. We are more equipped than ever before to build a successful, race-worthy vehicle.

So what have we been doing these past 10 months? First and foremost, over the summer we competed in the Formula Sun Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

In Austin,  the team fought against incredible adversity as our Tritium Battery Management System and Driver Controls system both failed unexpectedly. Through the hard work and extreme dedication of the Electrical team, we were able to repair a spare BMS with parts from the failed system, and create an entirely new Driver Controls system with an Arduino. This concluded with the triumph of passing scrutineering with 10 minutes left in the event, and taking Leonidas on his first ever lap around the Circuit of the Americas racetrack. While this is not the outcome we had in mind, it was a crucial step in the right direction for our team, and it allowed us to bring back a core group of experienced members that have become the backbone of this year’s team.

And what’s ahead? With a new lead for almost all sub-teams and a stronger collective team than ever before, we are poised and ready to start our next car to replace Leonidas.  The new designs are already well underway. Stay tuned for the next blog post where we are excited to announce some details about our new project!

02 Feb

Team Update 31st January, 2017

Heading into 2017 the team received a very generous donation from General Motors, which will be used to further improve the car and get it ready for competition. This week, the team is working on the to make improvements towards the suspension and the battery box. The competition is fast approaching and the suspension team will be having their lathe and mill training in the next few days to implement a new suspension system for the car to better fit the competition regulation. The President of Solar Car, Jesse Ouellette is working with members of the suspension team in order to bring the car up to speed.

Picture: Solar Car members Adeesh Shrestha and Tommy Tsuchiya work on taking the old suspension system apart.

Picture: Solar Car members Adeesh Shrestha and Tommy Tsuchiya work on taking the old suspension system apart.

Meanwhile, the electrical team is currently working on the arduino board to further improve the battery box. Also, the team is working on dwindling the number of cables required by the car in order to improve safety and to ensure that multiple problems cannot occur.

Many improvements will be added over the few coming weeks as things pick up in terms of workload for the MSU Solar Car team.

15 Nov

November 8th, 2016 Team Update

This week, the new recruits finally received their time in the shop working with and learning from the veterans of the team.  Prior, however, the team was split between mechanical and electrical with each new recruit given the option to choose what aspect of the car they would like to work on.  After choosing, the new members would meet within their subgroups to get directions as to what is needed to be accomplished before racing season.  Now that the assignment of jobs is finished, the solar racing team can now make a big step in production of the new car this year.

Sunday, November 6th, was the first time the recruits stepped foot into the shop to actually work on the car. “It was a great experience,” mechanical team recruit Sam Jacinto said, “I received a lot of hands on experience and the veterans had no problem helping with things I didn’t understand.”  All of the car has been stripped besides the chassis so that the sub groups can work on all projects of the automobile.  The team is well underway to accomplishing all of it’s goals by racing season.


Veterans; Dong Feng, Greg Stark, and Ian Grosh, show the new recruits the internal workings of an electric motor

Veterans; Dong Feng, Greg Stark, and Ian Grosh, show the new recruits the internal workings of an electric motor

03 Nov

There’s the Voltage- The Electrical Team is Up and Running

MSU’s Solar Car team is officially ready to work! After being introduced to one another, assigned roles, and taught safety protocols, the electrical team is now ready to jump in on the action. After a formal safety training, safety measures will be taken seriously and carefully to ensure our team is safe at all times. Ian Grosh, the leader of the electrical team, showed the basics of how the car should be set up, the battery, and safety protocol in regards to electricity with the new electrical team members. Also, Solar Car will begin production at a quick and smooth rate to ensure we will be more efficient than ever. Work hard, work smart, and never quit. SPARTANS WILL!

18 Dec

Michigan State Solar Car Team and Saturn Electronics to team up in exhibiting at the NAIAS 2015

The Michigan State University Solar Car Team will collaborate with local PCB manufacturer and team sponsor Saturn Electronics to cover expenses of participating at the NAIAS 2015. This will be the first participation of the MSU Solar Car Team at the show after the team was re-launched in 2007. “Participating at the NAIAS is of great significance to us as it gives us a platform to showcase the team’s most innovative designs and cutting-edge technology advancements within the renewable energy and automotive fields.” Ali ElSeddik – Project Manager of the Solar Car Team.

Saturn Electronics will be covering the team’s logistical expenses related to exhibiting at the show. Saturn has been donating all the printed circuit boards for the Solar Team’s latest car: Leonidas. Together, MSU Solar and Saturn are working on advancing technologies used in the team’s solar cars to further realize the team’s goals.  “As a MSU graduate and  stakeholder in the State of Michigan’s economy I feel it’s important to support our educational institutions and programs like the MSU Solar Car and hope that other Michigan based companies will step up to the challenge and contribute as well” Raj Sutariya –V.P. Saturn Electronics.

Exhibition Details: 

Press preview: January 12-13
Industry Preview: January 14-15
Charity Preview: January 16
Public Show: January 17-25

About Saturn Electronics:
Saturn was founded in 1985 by Nagji Sutariya. From the beginning, Saturn’s mantra was to focus solely on quality and to learn from, but never repeat, mistakes. From this seemingly simple philosophy Saturn grew from a humble 3 person operation at an average rate of 25% per year to become a top 10 PCB fabricator in North America.

Saturn copy1

About MSU Solar:
Re-launched in 2007 after an unsuccessful initial founding in 1999, the MSU Solar Car team is a student-run organization dedicated towards the design, building, testing, and racing of entirely solar-powered vehicles. Compromised of undergraduate and graduate students at Michigan State University, the team gives its members a hands-on multidisciplinary experience within the engineering, business, and management fields.

To learn more, please contact:

Michigan State University Solar Car Team

14 May

Flakeboard and Demmer Corporation

The MSU Solar Car Team would like to extend a very gracious thank you to Flakeboard for generously donating all of the mold material for the body of the solar car. The team had a lot of trouble finding a proper supplier for mold material, and we were extremely fortunate to connect with the great staff over at Flakeboard.

Furthermore, we would like to thank the incredible members from Demmer Corporation that helped us machine our car’s design out of our mold material. Without Demmer’s guidance and assistance, our car’s body would never have gotten close to its potential. Thank you!






Images of the MDF (medium density fiberboard) that Flakeboard donated to the team and Demmer Corporation machined for the team.


Sheets of the MDF were glued together and cut into the shape of the solar car’s body.   It was our team’s goal to create a competitive solar car, and a very important aspect of that goal is to have an aerodynamic body that can support the solar array. While creating Brasidius III for ASC 2014 the team was forced to use an in-house designed manufacturing process to create the body, resulting in a less than stellar product. However, thanks to Flakeboard and Demmer’s help, the team will be able to create a much more aerodynamic and aesthetic solar car body.

Go Green!

24 Oct

Array Encapsulation Testing

Michigan State is one of a few schools that encapsulate their solar array by hand. Manually encapsulating, although more work than buying panels, gives us not only more flexibility in our design and ability to fix issues with the array but gives team members a greater understanding of how solar technology works and the challenges with creating a good product.

You can see in a past blog post the encapsulation process we used for our last array which used a continuous baking process to protect the cells between layers of EVA (Ethylene-vinyl acetate). This year we are looking to bake our cells statically in a standard oven with more layers, a back sheet and a top glass layer, for greater stability and protection.

Before we go and try baking sheets of cells in an oven we are doing single cell test runs in a small toaster oven to see what will work to get the best finished product.

Here you can see we’re preparing a single cell to be baked. The blue tape around the edges is to seal the materials in order to create a vacuum while the in the oven.


The toaster oven and vacuum pump set up.


One of the biggest difficulties is baking the cell under the right pressure and temperature conditions to have no air bubbles trapped in the EVA after it has cured. You can see in the final result of the first test run below that air bubbles were a problem.

Final Result
For the next test we used fresher EVA, monitored the temperature inside the oven more accurately and baked the materials in between two 7″x 7″x 1″ Aluminum plates for more consistent applied pressed.
Letting the Aluminum plates heat up before inserting the materials.


The packaged materials
The final results!
Looking at the results from both the tests side by side, as seen below, there was a major improvement in bubble reduction although still not perfect. By continuing to further tweak the bake and cure temperatures, times and pressures we should get it down soon!


04 May

Test Cockpit Construction

Finals week has just ended for Michigan State, which marks the beginning of the most exciting process for our team: design finalization and fabrication!

Yesterday and today we assembled a rough mockup of our chassis and butt bucket based on our current frame designs. The primary purpose was to determine how well our designs conform to Dan and Scott, our drivers.

Based on the mockup, we were able to determine that we needed to reduce the width of our butt bucket significantly, as well as decrease the depth of the butt bucket for visibility purposes. Additionally, we were able to obtain measurements for use in designing our roll cage to meet the ASC 2014 regulations as well as minimize frontal area.

Early construction


More construction


Where soccer conditioning comes in handy…


We can’t see out of the car based on our current designs


Optimal distance for foot location


Optimal foot location and angle


Measuring distance from helmet to roll cage bars (must be >50 mm according to ASC regs)
Simulating the array for visibility testing


26 Mar

3M Shipment has Arrived!

3M has very generously donated several boxes worth of crucial supplies to build our solar car, including all the sandpaper and electrical tape we need, various types of panel adhesives, and the most important supplies of all: duct tape and zip ties!

The body team is especially grateful for the abrasive paper. 3M sent us as much sand paper as we need in grits ranging along a continuous spectrum from very a large grit to a very fine grit. We will hopefully be receiving our molds from Demmer by the end of April, so the abrasive paper from 3M will be used extensively to make our molds, and thus the outer surface of our final body, as smooth as possible.

Here are the unopened shipped boxes below:

And here are the boxes after we opened them and categorized everything in the shipment.


Thank you 3M!!!


09 Sep

A Photographic Journey through the ASC 2012

Its easy when we are caught up in the sleep deprivation, stress, and workload associated with the solar team to forget about the great times that the solar team has given us. I want to share a few of the photos that resonate with me as I reflect upon MSU’s first ever competition in the ASC 2012. The expression, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, is certainly how I personally feel about the photos you will see below.

Members of the team watching Sam Lenius and Steve Zajac diagnosing our motor controller
Steve Zajac is the hero of the MSU Solar Car Team. At scrutineering, we fried not one, not two, but three motor controllers. We were almost certain that our car would never drive. However, Steve was unbelievably persistent. With three burnt out motor controllers, plus spare parts from Minnesota, Steve stayed up an entire night and successfully combined the parts from the 3 damaged controllers into one functional motor controller. The photo above shows our apprehension as Sam tests whether the motor controller Steve rebuilt would work. If the motor controller in the above photo didn’t work, we would not have competed in the ASC 2012.
Meeting Oregon State for the first time at the race

The Oregon State University Solar Car Team was hands down the most awesome team at the competition. They were all super fun, relaxed, and nice, and they were unbelievably generous to our team. For several nights of the competition, we stayed at the vacation home that Oregon State was staying at, thanks to their much appreciated invitation. Also, Oregon State helped us with their experience and equipment to help us pass scrutineering. I can’t put into words how much respect I have for their team.

Eating dinner with Western Michigan!
One of the great pleasures of participating in the American Solar Challenge is spending time with bright engineers from across the country (and even some from outside the US!). We very much enjoyed eating dinner with and talking solar with Western Michigan, one of the most established solar car teams in the nation.


Miles Turrell on the team scooter

One of the greatest assets our team had during scrutineering was an electric scooter that our logistics manager, Ethan Akerly, brought along to the race. Our trailer was a ten minute walk to the scrutineering station, so this scooter allowed members like Miles above to zip back and forth to our trailer for tools and other miscellaneous needs.

Dan Howarth and Meng Cao taking a quick snooze

Sleep deprivation was a serious limiting factor at the competition. Multiple days of 5 hours of sleep or less started to add up by the end of the FSGP 2012!

Dan Howarth, the new Project Manager, with Brasidius

Here is a photo of Dan with Brasidius after we successfully passed the dynamics scrutineering and realized we were going to compete in the qualifying track race. Dan was the brains and the motivator behind Brasidius’ new shell. During the summer before the race, Dan spent every night and weekend at the shop after his full-time internship constructing the shell and fastening the shell to the frame. Indeed his passion and drive for making a new solar car for the ASC 2014 has made him the ideal candidate to manage the 2-year design cycle of Leonidas!

University of Minnesota and Oregon State replacing a cracked cell on Brasidius

One of the great parts of Solar Car racing is the camaraderie between different solar car teams. Oregon State and Minnesota had already passed scrutineering, so they were kind enough to replace one of our damaged arrays. Minnesota and Oregon State use EVA tape for adhering their arrays to their shells, while we used silicone, so this proved to be a valuable lesson to Steve Zajac and I.

Driving behind Brasidius as we drive to the dynamics scrutineering
Steve Zajac finally getting some sleep after we qualified for ASC 2012
 I hope you enjoyed these photos!
James Miller
President, MSU Solar Car Team