The Michigan Daily - Friday, October 2, 1992- Page 5
'U-M solar car team prepares
by David Rheingold
Daily News Editor
The school that came up big Down
Under is doing it again.
A team of more than 100 U-M students
is building a solar-powered car that will
compete in two upcoming races.
The car, called Maize & Blue, will be
unveiled in January at the North Ameri-
can International Auto Show in Detroit.
From there, it will journey from Dallas
to Minneapolis in June 1993 for the 1,000-
mile Sunrayce against solar cars built
by student teams at 35 other
American colleges and uni-
The team will then
travel to Australia in
November 1993 for
the World Solar Chal-
lenge, a 1,900-mile trek
through the outback
against international competitors.
The team's makeup cuts across vari-
ous schools within the U-M. It is made up
mostly of about 75 students in the College
of Engineering, who are designing and
building the car, plus about 25 business
school students who are raising the
project's funds -a total of $1.5 million.
An art student designed the team's logo, a
Maize & Blue will be the second solar
car built at the U-M. Three years ago,
another team of students built a solar car
called Sunrunner. The project was a pio-
neering effort at the U-M, and many engi-
neering students found themselves cast
from a world of academic formulas into
But their effort paid off: Sunrunner
won the Sunrayce in 1990 and finished an
Blue will be powered by a 2-horsepower
motor- roughly the power of ahairdryer
- and the car will weigh a mere 600 lbs.
Its outer skin will be made of a light-
weight composite material, commonly
used in satellites, that is stronger than
The team will not say how fast it ex-
pects Maize & Blue will move, but Nazeeri
said he hopes it will travel atan average of
completely new car from the groun
Sunrunner was designed on pap
transferred to computer simulati
In a way, the team is devisi
separate cars: Maize & Blue willu
an extensive overhaul in the five
between the Sunrayce and the We
lar Challenge, because the U.S. r
its the type of solar cells and batter
car can use.
Otherwise, schools such as t
would have an imme
in the Sunrayce.
"A funny thing about the
U.S. race is you're going down
everyday roads and in some cases, we're
actually going to be limited by the speed
limit," he said.
Perhaps the team's most valuable tool
has been a $150,000 computer program
called CATIA, donated by IBM.
It can create an on-screen, three-di-
mensional model of a vehicle, and simu-
late the aerodynamics of oncoming wind.
CATIA has helped design many vehicles
worldwide, ranging from automobiles to
nuclear submarines and Boeing aircraft.
The team designed Maize & Blue en-
tirely on CATIA.
"It would have taken us five years to
build this car if we didn't have this IBM
hardware," Nazeeri said.
smaller schools that can
not raise funds to buy comparab
"We're trying to levelize theI
field and reduce costs," said racec
Richard King, who works in t
Department of Energy's photovo
search division. "It's an educatio
gram for universities, not a pro
raising funds. It's easy to spend
million on a car, and that's too m
students to be involved with, wej
The Department of Energy is
mary sponsor of the Sunrayce.
King pointed out that powerfu
zinc batteries-which Maize & B
use in Australia - cost S 15,000
only be recharged 20 times.
"That has no practicality in
vehicles if ever we're going to use
d up. ... zinc batteries in Australia. It will also
er, then replace its terrestrial solar cells with more
on." powerful cells generally used in satellites.
ing two In the process, it will shed 200 lbs., mak-
undergo ing it lighter and potentially faster.
months "Basically we're building two cars,"
orld So- Ross noted. "The batteries that we're us-
ace lim- ing in Australia are really expensive bat-
ies each teries."
The team will be able to afford all this
he U-M with the help of its business school team,
ense ad- which is soliciting individuals and re-
age over gional and national corporations.
Major sponsors can have their name
embossed on Maize & Blue's
body, the car's sup-
port vehicles and
sure at the Detroit
autoshow and during the races.
n- The team has also established a "buy a
le mate- cell" program, which encourages spon-
sors to buy individual solar cells for the
playing car at $100 each.
director Beth Riley, a second-year MBA can-
he U.S. didate in charge of marketing and public
ltaic re- relations for the business school team,
nal pro- said she likes the project's interdiscipli-
gram in nary approach.
over $1 "I like the fact that it gets me out of the
uch for business school and gets me looking at
feel." different areas of the university and what
the pri- they're doing - the engineering school
and the design school," Riley said.
il silver- Maize & Blue is nearly completed: the
lue will frame is done, the suspension is almost
and can complete and the cells will soon be strung
together. The business team, meanwhile,
electric still needs to raise $600,000. As January
them in nears, this means team members will be
putting in long hours.
"Last night's a good ex-
ample -a Friday night, we
had to do a body layup,"
Nazeeri said on this particu-
lar Saturday morning.
"Those guys were there, I
think,until two in the morn-
ing doing that layup. And
they're going to have to go
there tonight-football Sat-
urday. It's not like a casual
type of project, where you
just show up at a meeting
and have your input. It's
like you design something,
you build it, you test it and
you race it. You go the full
Engineering Prof. Bruce
Kamopp, the team's faculty
adviser, said students have
done mostof the work them-
"Because we've got so
many students from so many
areas, they're basically do-
ing thejob allon theirown,"'
he said. "I just stand on the
sidelines and make sure that
they're not doing something
really stupid from a legal
point-of-view or a public
DOUGLAS KANTEFVLail Nazeeri, who is taking a
year off from full-time
ties," he classes to work on the project, said his
experience with Maize & Blue has been
rs to use invaluable.
less and "I'velearned far more than I've learned
al solar in the classroom - although I couldn't
have done it without the classroom," he
e U-M's said. "I've learned so much in this project
goal of - how to get things done, how to conduct
uy supe- an effective meeting ... That's something
rayce's you'd never learn in school."
makes a joke
of us all
"Our political system is fied
with ego-driven, power-hungy
- Ross Perot, Presidential
least for now.
who kept a
when - -_
listening to Perot's press confer-
ence yesterday has either a great
deal of stoicism or an equal
amount of gullibility. Ripping
Perot after that debacle seems too x
easy. He spewed out hypocritical
statements like the one above at a
At one point, he said that
today's politicians "don't take
responsibility for their actions.
They go into politics to cash in
and not to serve."
I couldn't agree more. You fit
right in, Ross.
This is a guy who told all his
supporters to get his name on the
ballot in all 50 states, and just
about the time they did, he bailed
out. Now, like an addict craving a
drug, Perot comes back to slake
his thirst for the limelight.
Talk about responsibility.
Part of me expects Perot to win
the election, and then in the
middle of the inauguration yell,
"Live from New York. It's
The scary part is that people
are still going to vote for him. The
current political establishment has
so disenfranchised the American
people that Perot became a
euphemism for "none of the
This worked fine for a third-
party candidate in 1980, when
John Anderson captured a tiny
percentage of the vote. Anderson
gave voters the opportunity to say,
"We know he's not going to win,
but neither of these other guys are
going to win with my support."
Perot is different. He could
win. This should tell us two
things: (1) the electorate is
completely dissatisfied with what
the current political system has to
offer, and (2) because Perot
actually has chance to win, only a
fool would vote for him.
In his speech yesterday, Perot
thanked his "millions of grassroots
supporters," so named because of
their apparent experimentation
with smoking grassroots. My
guess is that they inhale.
Perot's supporters are follow-
ing the man, not the message. I
can say this with confidence
because as of yet, there is no
message. Perot has made his case
in a series of ambiguities, churn-
ing out catch phrases like "red uc-
ing the deficit," "jobs for every-
one," and, my personal favorite,
"the American people are good."
No one would disagree with
this sunshine world Perot pro-
poses. However, Perot has never
offered any specifics about how
he is going to bring about this
Utopia. Yet, millions of voters are.
ready to elect him to the most
powerful position in the nation.
He talks of being tough, yet
when he finally faced the media
scrutiny that both of the major
party candidates have had to deal
with, he decided to bow out - but
only temporarily. He couldn't take
the heat, so he got out of the
Then, he had the gall to come
over for dinner.
The only positive aspect of
Perot's candidacy may be that he
will make third-party candidates a
more viable option in the future.
Voters should not feel locked into
the candidates offered by the two
major parties. But Perot is not the
We don't know anything about
admirable third place in Australia.
The new team has the advantage of
being able to build off Sunrunner's award-
winning performance. But at the same
time, it has high expectations to live up to.
"You can't come in second and feel
like you've improved," said Furquan
Nazeeri, the project manager. "For us, we
want to win. We .will not be happy with
Through acombination of cutting-edge
computer technology, a cadre of dedi-
cated student volunteers and an aggres-
sive fund-raising campaign, they might
do just that.
Maize & Blue will operate entirely off
solar energy; race rules prohibit teams
from using external power sources.
The car itself will look partly like a
giant insect, with thousands of solar cells
glittering on its back. These cells will
collect sunlight and convert it into elec-
tricity. Batteries inside the car can store
"If you had to do it by drawings on
paper, you'd have to redraw it every time
you made a change. On top of that, you
don't have the visualization that's in the
complex 3-D shape. You can't really rep-
resent that on a piece of paper," he said.
The team then gave its computerized
model to a sponsor, who used a computer
to produce a quarter-scale prototype of
Maize & Blue. The team tested this model
in a wind tunnel on North Campus and
studied its actual aerodynamics.
"We went back to our math model
with what we learned from the physical
model, and we changed a few things -
tweaked it up, bulged this in, bulged that
out, particularly just to minimize the drag
on the car," Nazeeri said.
The resulting car has 45 percent less
aerodynamic drag than Sunrunner.
And considering Sunrunner's respect-
able performance in 1990, Maize & Blue
might very well outshine its predecessor.
electric cars on roads and in cit
The Sunrayce requires all car
lead-acid batteries, which cost
last longer, as well as terrestri
That may actually hinder th
team, whose total fund-raising
$1.5 million will be enough to bu
rior equipment to the Sun
"I think it's kind of like havir
horse," Nazeeri said. "In the U.S.
more like having a race horse an
just pulling at the bit to keep it
think our car will perform very
In Australia, however, the te
use whatever materials they can
"The World Solar Challenge .
of an open-class race," said Chi
the team's fund-raising manage
can use whatever you can get yo
g a race
.. is kind
Top: An artist's rendering of the U-M's
new solar car, Maize & Blue.
Bottom: Members of the Maize & Blue
team in the team's North Campus office.
From left to right: Assistant Project
Manager Lesley Camblin, Systems
Coordinator Harry Yates, chassis
designer Andrew Carmody and Walt
Carlson, a member of the chassis team.