Formula Sun Grand Prix Day 1 – Passed Scrutineering!

The Formula Sun Grand Prix (FSGP) has begun! Day one of racing is finished and you can see all of the teams’ progress here: http://americansolarchallenge.org/ at the bottom of the page

Impulse waiting for an all teams photo
Impulse waiting for an all teams photo

We have been working around the clock to solve issue after issue with both the regulations and performance of Impulse. Our biggest problems were the dynamic braking test and the horn test, that was all that was stopping us from racing.

Well after some deliberation with Oregon State University (Thank you so much for the help!) and the two mechanical scrutineers we came up with two solutions to the braking test and both worked! We took the better of the options and moved forward with the horn.

Scrutineering Day 1 – Registration

Sunset on the Hot Pavement at Monticello Motor Club
Sunset on the Hot Pavement at Monticello Motor Club

July 6 is coming to a close and that means day 1 of scrutineering has finished! Although for our team specifically all that entailed was registration and finding a place to work on the car for the afternoon. Our scheduled slots for examination are all for Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday will have our electrical and driver scrutineering sessions. The electrical session will consist of tests on our critical systems on the vehicle. Basically they are making sure that our motor works, that our lights work properly, and that the system as a whole will be safe throughout the race. The driver session includes making sure that all of the drivers follow regulations correctly and will be safe when they drive the car.

All of the teams ended up in a freshly paved parking lot right next to the race track at Monticello Motor Club. We set up shade tents, unloaded the car, and began working on Impulse. Brake lights needed to be checked, the hatch array was being tested for proper power output, an old board needed to be remounted to remedy a recurring issue. We also helped out the Principia Solar Car Team with our welder and generator.

The Heat, the Work, and the City

We are concluding our third day of preparations in Monticello, New York and we are burning in the heat. It has been consistent 90 degree days with 50% humidity and when working outside on the car, the weather just saps the energy right from us.

CalSol Team Picture in Time Square
CalSol team photo in the center of Time Square

But all we can do is continue working on the car, fixing small glitches, soldering some replacement circuits, coordinating logistics for ASC, and fitting in food and sleep somewhere in there. But that clearly can’t continue forever. So…

We all decided to take a break on the night of July 3rd and travel to New York City because we were already so close. We drove to the outskirts, took the metro into the center of the city, walked through Rockefeller Center and Time Square, stopped at John’s for some wonderful pizza, and then headed on back to Monticello. It was a great night and gave us a hefty boost in team morale.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Lake at Day 4 Campsite in Annawan, Illinois
Lake at Day 4 Campsite in Annawan, Illinois

We seem to be playing cat and mouse with a large storm for the past few days. Lots of rain, lots of thunder, lots of soggy sleeping bags…

Every time that we leave camp we speed past the dark, ominous clouds and get into the warm, humid sunlight. But as soon as we reach the next campsite, the clouds catch back up and throw torrents of water back down on us during the night.

The soggy feeling is starting to creep through a lot of our gear so hopefully we can get to either dryers at our next campsite or we will have to wait until New York so that we can be stationary and dry clothes outside.

ASC Here We Come!

I don’t know if everyone has noticed the big countdown on our home page, but we have less than a month left until American Solar Challenge 2012! We are and have been diligently preparing for this 1,800 mile race for many months now and all of our work is truly beginning to fit together.

Impulse charging at sunset over bay
As the sun begins to set after a day of racing, we tilt the solar cells to maximize the collected power.

We have team members retrofitting the electrical system, modifying the braking system, creating an interactive steering wheel, and much more. We have also been working hard developing racing strategy as you can see here with us testing our solar array power in the setting sun at the edge of San Francisco Bay.

Suspension and Chassis Update

The Suspension and Chassis team has been working on two fronts recently: helping to prepare Impulse for the American Solar Challenge and designing the major mechanical systems for our next solar car.

The finished tool to remove our wheels

Our first project of this semester was to reconstruct our broken hub tool – this tool is used to remove the wheels from Impulse during tire changes and pit stops. Australia put too much of a strain on the last one and it snapped in two. Because of the intricate design on the surface of the part we decided to take this opportunity as a learning experience in using the CNC machines in the student machine shop in Etcheverry Hall.

The final product turned out to be just as artistic as it is practical. Being a team of mechanical engineers, this is the kind of success that makes us proud to be engineers.