American Solar Challenge

10548257_806829069361911_8239728895001002170_oGroup picture before ASC 2014. MSU Solar is the first from the right, top row.

The American Solar Challenge represents a triumph in student problem-solving, creativity, teamwork, and diplomacy. Teams that qualify for and successfully complete the ASC have demonstrated that they can:

  1. Successfully coordinate students from different disciplines to design, build, and test from the ground up a car that runs solely on solar power.
  2. Network effectively with their university and sponsoring companies to raise the resources to build a solar car and cover the costs of racing.
  3. Apply the knowledge gained in school towards a host of interrelated problems in engineering, business, and teamwork that cannot be solved by “looking in the back of the textbook“.
  4. Understand solar technology, its environmental benefits, and how it can continue progress in the promising future of innovation.

IMG_1917                                            Smiles on the team during FSGP 2012.

So what exactly is the American Solar Challenge?

The ASC is a 1200-1800 mile plus race across public roads in America. Originally called the GM Sunrayce USA in 1990, ASC is a biyearly event. The 2010 American Challenge was an 1100-mile race from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Naperville, Illinois. The American Solar Challenge 2012 was a 1600-mile cross-country race from Rochester, New York to Minneapolis, Minnesota. While the American Solar Challenge 2014 was a 1700 challenge from Austin, TX to Minneapolis, MN.

In order to qualify for the American Solar Challenge, each team‘s solar car is subjected to three days or more of “scrutineering”. Scrutineering is set of thorough inspections by the race inspectors that ensure that the vehicles are safe to drive on public roads and to ensure that the race design regulations are met. At each ASC, several teams unfortunately do not pass scrutineering and thus cannot compete in the American Solar Challenge.

Once scrutineering has been passed, there is a three-day track race called the Formula Sun Grand Prix. It is three days of racing on grand prix or road styled courses where teams try to complete as many laps as they possibly can. They must apply different racing strategies than ones used during the American Solar Challenge, such as making quick pit stops and developing a strong passing strategy. The winner of the FSGP is the team who completes the greatest number of laps over the three day period. The team that records the fastest single lap time is also recognized. The FSGP is the qualifying track race for the American Solar Challenge. If teams can complete a certain number of laps on the track, they can embark upon the American Solar Challenge cross-country race.

Formula Sun Grand Prix 2017

The Michigan State Solar Car Team is currently preparing for FSGP 2017 which is being held in Austin, Texas at the Cicuit of the Americas. FSGP consists of two main parts: vehicle scruteneering and a circuit race. Scruteneering will be take place from July 2nd to the 5th. Following scruteneering teams will begin the circuit race which takes place on July 5th to the 9th.

Prior to the race, the Michigan State University Solar Car Team will evaluate ways to better abide by and comprehend the regulations for this year’s race. They will also advance their use of innovative technologies to further develop and understand solar power as a renewable energy.

Map of the circuit of the Americas

More information about FSGP can be found here


For further information on the American Solar Challenge visit