Preparing for Formula Sun Grand Prix, Part 1

Summer is drawing near. Tender green buds and new spring grass are giving way to lush spring growth, while the summer sun shines ever brightly in the cloudless sky. Well, this being Berkeley, the weather is like this most of the time. Still, you get my point…


The coming of summer also reminds us that we are creeping closer to Formula Sun Grand Prix 2017. This summer’s race will be taking place in Austin, Texas, on the Circuit of the Americas, and CalSol is enthusiastically preparing both our vehicle and our team for the competition. This past weekend, we focused on practicing pit operations and communications. Both are essential for success at the race: faster pit operations permit us to spend more time driving laps, while smooth communication skills help us facilitate personnel switches and reduce stress.


Ennzhi Chew, our Mechanical Coordinator, gave a detailed lesson on the intricacies of wheel and tire changing. We rely heavily on No-Mar’s tire changer to slip the rubber tires on and off the rim. Changing tires can be tricky, so several members took turns practicing.


Ennzhi teaches how to change tires.
Ennzhi (left) teaches how to change tires using our No-Mar tire changer


Meanwhile, Harrison Zheng (Engineering Director) and Hersh Sanghvi (Electrical Coordinator) led a quick lesson on the use of amateur (ham) radios. CalSol uses ham radio to communicate during the American Solar Challenge, when cell service can be spotty or nonexistent. We continue to use ham radio during Formula Sun Grand Prix as well, in part to maintain our proficiency for the next road race. New team members learned to use handheld radios and vehicle-mounted sets, while veteran members received a valuable refresher. Harrison and Hersh finished off the lesson with a radio relay, where a pair had to assemble and configure a pair of radios to transmit a code word. Geoffry Ding and Avinash Jois won the race along with Harrison’s reward of boba tea.

April 2017 FSGP Prep radio relay
Radio relay: assembling “vehicle mounted” radios. Their partners are far away configuring the handheld sets.

Finally, we tested Zephyr’s onboard radio range by driving in laps around our work space at the Richmond Field Station. It was great to see the vehicle driving again, and we look forward to continuing out preparation this weekend!

Elizabeth Li driving Zephyr near Building 460, our main workspace at the Richmond Field Station.
Elizabeth Li driving Zephyr near Building 460, our primary work space at the Richmond Field Station.