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July 07, 1993 - Image 8

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 1993-07-07

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

8- The Michigan Daily Summer Weekly -Wednesday, July 7,1993


owered by the sun
Story and photos by Peter Matthews

The University's solar pow-
ered car team was not,
with one exception, the
same team that won the General Mo-
tors' Sunrayce 90.
ThisteamarrivedinTexas withthe
intention of defending the title
itspredecessors took in the first
Sunrayce. On Saturday, June 26, they
did just that with a mere hour-and-a-
halflead on therunners-up--Califor-
nia State Polytechnic University of
Early in the race, an official stated,
"Michigan is the team everyone is
shooting for." Winning this time was
no turkey shoot.
Robert Stempell, the former CEO
of General Motors Corporation, said,
"The good thing about Sunrayce 93 is
we didn't have arun-away race ... The
top third of the field, all of them, had
the potential to win."
Success Breeds Success
The University of Michigan, Cali-

George Washington University fin-
ishedseveralminutes apartandover an
hour ahead of the fourth place finisher
after driving the first 164 mile stretch
of the seven day and 1,100 mile
Sunrayce 93 was an intercollegiate
competitionforsolar poweredvehicles.
It was envisioned as an opportunity for
engineering and design students to
experience hands-on research and de-
velopment as well as team work in an
endeavor to manufacture a road-wor-
thy product that was to be entered into
acompetition for over $60,000 in cash
and prizes.
Theprimary sponsorsofthis year's
race were General Motors and the De-
sponsorship of their own. Such spon-
sorship came in the form of parts, ser-
vices and/or financial backing. -
The University's team shirts, solar
car and trailer were emblazoned with
thelogosof 13 sponsors and the names
of another 29.

Many of the University team's
sponsors were wooed by a well orga-
nized group of Business School stu-
Deanna Winton, an Engineering
junior and one of the two primary
drivers of the solar car, said "It's basi-
cally never taking 'no' for an answer,
you keep calling and asking for any
way they can help you out."
The University's team was one of
the better funded. This was due to the
initiative of its business corps and the
publicity it received from the previous
victory. Sponsors donated the equiva-
lentof around $700,000in funds, parts
and services.
Team members often expressed
appreciation foropportunitiesand their
sponsors had made possible. Several
other teams also benefited from the
Maize & Blue team'scollectiveexper-
tise and equipment. Within the
University's behemoth trailer was a
work shop and bins of spare parts they
shared with other teams.
Some teams were either resentful
or awed by the University's relative
Amemberofone of the frontrunner
teams said, "The best thing you can
hope for is that Michigan is broken
down back there and can't go any-
where and takes a five hour penalty, or
that they crossed a double yellow line
a couple more times, or that they'll roll
the car and it cracks open - crrk!"
The trailer, hauled by a powerful
semi, and the no nonsense attitude of
the team also elicited statements like
Andy Kurriger's, a driver for the Iowa
State University team. "They intimi-
date me," he said. "Everything about
them is really slick, I have nothing
against them, but WOW!"
Joey Bodorkos, of the University
of Waterloo team, said, while pointing
to the white leviathan that is the Uni-
versity trailer, "There's this sort of ice
cube there, you can't chip into it."
One of the harsh realities of
Sunrayce sponsorship is that the poor
tend to get poorer and the rich richer.
Victory brings with itpublicity not
just for the team but its sponsors. Vic-
tory, therefore, facilitates the courting
of sponsors.
University Strategy Shines
This formula holds true for the run-
ning of the race as well. Itis here that
the University team proved itself ca-
pable ofumaking very competent use of
outside funding and the team's own
expertise. The predictions of the
University's meteorologists and strat-
egists were right on. -
Those who miscalculate their
weather forecasts,roadconditions and
the charge of theirbatteries will invite

a vicious cycle to form.
Batteries may only be charged
through the solar radiation absorbed
by the thousands of photovoltaic cells
in the car's solar array - panels that
resemble cobalt blue tortoise shells.
Those teams who spend more time
driving or trailering their vehicles find
themselves facing an ever increasing
battery charge deficit.
Cars and their arrays were im-
pounded between 9 p.m. to 6:30 am.
each day. At6:30 in the morning there
would be a rush to remove cars from
team trailers and to position the arrays
for optimal sun ray exposure.
Uponarrivalat the race day's finish
line, the teams would quickly remove
and set-up their array - moving it
every hour or so with the changing
position of the sun.
The University team proved them-
selvesmasters of this procedure.Itwas
as the strategic use of their information
and communication system that made
it possible for them to overcome the 30
minutes of penalties they incurred by
nunning aredlightandcrossing adouble
yellow line.
The team's chase van housed a
highly advanced computer; which re-
quired an outboard generator carried
on a trailer attached to the van.
Eric Slimko, an Engineering se-
nior, used the computer to upload
weather maps downloaded from a sat-
ellite. This wasoneofseveralvariables
variables included instantaneousread-
ings of the solar car's battery charge
and the amount of solar radiation ab-
sorbed by the array. Another crucial
variable was a computerized map.
The map was generated several
months earlier when members of the
team drove the race route. With the
map, the team knew their location
within inches. The strategists were
therefore able to dictate the optimum
speed for the car and avoid burning out
its batteries.
It was on Thursday that the team's
forethought, and ability to make in-
stantaneous decisions was called upon
to reclaim their earlier lead.
Stempell said, "One of the great
things that happened on this race was
Thursday, we had avery bad rain in the
morning,very heavy clouds.... Michi-
gan gotaway (unlike most of the other
teams)and they came across the finish
line that night about 6:20 or so. That
really put a chapter in the history book
on solar car racing because we didn't
have sun all day long and a combina-
tion of rain, clouds, wind and their
strategy paid off- aremarkableday."
The race route was charted to pass

through "the heartland of Americ4
Solar powered cars drove along sec-
ondary roads and passed through or
stopped in sundry podunks.
Many families, couples and kids
lined the race route - some waiting
hours to see the next car pass. Others
set up stands that advertised "Solar
Fuel for the Future
One of the objectives in parading
21st century technologies through 4
ral America was to inspire future gen-
erations to reinforce the technological
prowess of the United States.
Robert San Martin, the acting as-
sistant secretary of the Department of
Energy, told those assembled in the
banquethall, "Whatis needed to make
this country as strong as it has been in
the future is ideas, you are the ideas,
you are the hope. Ideas are the fuel
the future."
Stempell said, "We did this ini-
tially to promote education.... These
hands-on projects are valuable experi-
ences and what happens is that along
the route we find alot of grade school
kids and high school kinds out to see
the project.... We convert some of the
really get into this."

Andris prepares for first race day.

Deanna beams after Sunrayc

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