Barbeque with UM Solar

Last Saturday, MSU Solar sent the majority of our race crew to visit the UM Solar Car Team in Ann Arbor Michigan. The guys on our team had a great time exploring their shop, meeting their race crew members, and playing a great couple rounds of Ultimate Frisbee. We also enjoyed hearing stories of UM’s successful completion in the World Solar Challenge 2011.

We look forward to seeing UM Solar at the American Solar Challenge 2012 this July!


Thank You to the University of Michigan Solar Car…

One of the best parts of summer is the free time…to work on the car. The MSU Solar Car Racing Team has certainly been doing that as we approach the American Solar Challenge 2012 in early July. The guys on our team were all kind enough to stay in East Lansing this summer, so as to ensure that our vehicle is ready for the race.
We wanted to point out a couple of organizations that have been incredibly helpful to us in the past few weeks. We are able to keep making progress thanks in part to these groups that have helped us:
First, Lansing Electric Motors completed repairs on our motor! Even more, they were generous enough to cover all the costs of repairs for us! We will definitely be going back to them for any future motor repairs.
Next, the Composite Vehicle Research Center here at MSU has been kind enough to allow the body team to move all of our molds and materials to their spacious research labs. This frees up space in our shop to work on the car. Additionally, we have access to their state-of-the-art facilities for use in testing our composites and laying up the shell. Also, Dr. Mahmood Haq of the CVRC has offered his expertise to us, which will no doubt be invaluable over the next month.
Next, the Innovators Educational Foundation, the folks behind the American Solar Challenge 2012, very generously sponsored our team with a $1200 grant towards our race fees in the competition. For our team, this grant helped us immensely towards covering our costs leading up to the competition.
Finally, the University of Michigan Solar Car Team very generously allowed us to borrow one of their NGM solar car motors, as well as a companion motor controller, for our testing as well as for a backup motor in the ASC 2012. We are very confident with the combination of our repaired motor and motor controller and UMich’s motor and motor controller, we can trust that this element of the electrical system will take us the 1000-plus miles this summer!

This weekend, 8 or so guys on our team will be driving down to Ann Arbor to have a barbeque with the race crew of the UM Solar Car Team. We are very excited to spend some relaxing time with members of the team down the road as the pace picks up going into the race.

Thanks for reading!

James Miller
Project Manager, MSU Solar Car Racing Team


Visit to Lansing Electric Motors and our meeting with…

This past week has been very eventful for the electrical team of the MSU Solar Car Racing Team:



Last Friday, John Nathan, the Director of Technical Sales, Product Development and Launch for Hybrid Electric Vehicles at Lear Corporation, (as well as also a Michigan State University Alumni!), met with several members of our team. We showed him the suspension team’s progress constructing the new suspension, as well as the body team’s progress constructing the molds for the new shell. Most important though, was the discussion between members of the electrical team with John. John has a tremendous knowledge of electrical systems, specifically geared towards hybrid-electric and all-electric vehicles, so his insights were very helpful in analyzing the wiring system and electrical safety of our car. We enjoyed his stopping by, and we look forward to continuing contact with him in the months to come!



Today, several members of the electrical team brought our SCM 150 motor into Lansing Electric Motors. The purpose was to have our motor diagnosed and have any worn bearings replaced before the American Solar Challenge 2012.



At the shop, we met with Mark Selby, the General Manager for LEM. We also met with Scott Pakkala, the Shop Supervisor, and Jim French, Director of Purchasing. Everyone was very helpful, and we were able to observe them as they disassembled the motor. Our visit was both very productive and very educational, because we were afforded a deeper understanding of our motor.



Regarding the other sub-teams within the team, we have made tremendous progress for several systems. The molds for our new shell our completed, which require sanding before we can lay-up our fiberglass body. Also, the components for our new suspension have been machined, so all we need to do is weld them together. Additionally, the steel tubing for the butt-bucket has been bent and notched, so they require welding as well. We have been too busy fabricating to actually write, but articles on other systems will be posted ASAP.
Thanks for reading this!
James Miller,
Project Manager, MSU Solar Car Racing Team

First post after FSGP 2011

Hello and welcome to the first post of the Michigan State University Solar Car Racing Team!

The last day of FSGP 2011


Eight Months ago, our team successfully competed in the Formula Sun Grand Prix for the first time in university history. Here are the final results of that race:

Not only did we complete the race, but we felt satisfied by the substantial number of laps Brasidius, our vehicle, pulled off. In the three day period, Brasidius raced nearly 200 miles without any technical malfunctions.


Of course, we must absolutely stress our gratitude to the other, more mature solar teams, especially the University of Minnesota Solar Car Project and the Western Michigan Sunseeker Solar Car Team. Our car required a great deal of preparation at the race to pass scrutineering, and we certainly could not have done it without those teams.

Other teams, such as the Iowa State Solar Car Team and the Kentucky Solar Car Team, were extraordinarily helpful in explaining how specific systems within their vehicles were designed. We are finding now, as we prepare for the American Solar Challenge 2012 (more on that later), that the feedback those teams at the FSGP 2011 gave us is helping us push through design boundaries our team was limited to in the prior race (more on our current design work in later posts).

We were also greatly appreciative of the general atmosphere at the Formula Sun Grand Prix. The other teams were composed of some ridiculously talented engineers who were also friendly and open to newcomers. At the race, two of our five-member team last year, Lindsay Karn and Manila Ounsombath, who graduated in spring of 2011, were honored with the FSGP Spirit Award.


Where is our team going from here? We hope to successfully race in the American Solar Challenge 2012, a biannual cross-country competition, for the first time. With over 20 teams currently registered for the competition, we must say we are intensely excited for the event. Here are the status boards for the various teams registered: Pre-event Team Status Boards

The route goes from Rochester, New York, up through Michigan (the route passes through East Lansing!), and ends in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Our primary objective in the American Solar Challenge 2012 is to complete the entire 1500 mile journey in Brasidius. This involves completely redesigning several systems within the car to allow it to race that far.
A few design improvements will be named here:

  • Lower the roll cage and install a seat-bucket into the frame, to lower the center of gravity of Brasidius.
  • Rebuild the front suspension to eliminate tire scrub (inefficiency due to the tires dragging while the vehicle is turning)
  • Test various lithium-ion battery pack configurations to use instead of lead-acid batteries to reduce vehicle weight
  • Fabricate a new body to reduce the aerodynamic dragIn

The past semester, exciting progress has been made in several fronts. The team has grown in size from under 5 members to 25 active members. Our team structure has evolved as well. In the year prior, we had 3 main teams: Electrical, Mechanical, and Business. We found that we operate more efficiently when the teams are more differentiated. There is now a frame, suspension, body, sponsorship, battery, array, and microelectronics team, each composed of between 1 and 8 members.

Because our team is still not as large as the more well-established teams, each member plays a multi-faceted role in the success of our day to day endeavors. This essentially means that individual members typically contribute to more than a single sub-team. We do this to try to minimize bottlenecks in the roles of individual sub-teams in fulfilling the goals of the whole team.

From september until early january, our team was focused primarily on design of the improvements to be made to Brasidius and the completion of the design report for ASC 2012. For instance, the body team has created over 17 iterations of a cambered airfoil design under consideration for fabrication. Here is a side view of the airfoil CAD file in relation to the frame:


The frame and suspension team have completed their designs, and we are eagerly awaiting the materials for construction to arrive in the shop. Fabrication will hopefully begin within the next week of the frame, and some components of the suspension will be begin fabrication this weekend.

Here is a final picture to end this post. Here is Hasan, our Business Manager (and graphics extraordinaire!), when he unveiled to us the fantastic new logo for the MSU Solar Car Racing Team last fall.


Stay tuned for future updates!
-James M.L. Miller, Project Manager