Building A Solar Race Car Is Difficult, But Not Really


Since before Gizmodo Australia jumped on board, the UWS Solar Car team has been working tirelessly to try and get the funding it needs. This has involved harvesting then blindly contacting every single corporate they could. Sometimes we get no response, other times a straight out no, we do get lucky occasionally such as with Lenovo, SunPower and Gizmodo. As much as our coverage and interaction with you guys through Gizmodo is worth millions, if not billions, other teams have big things in their pipeline.

The University of Michigan has a million dollar-budget, we assume that other top teams such as Delft Nuon and Tokai are nearing those figures. These teams are also supported by some of the top brass of industry, companies that obviously have connections to the universities, Panasonic, Toyota, Ford, Chrysler, Roush, Brambo just to name a few. Closer to home UNSW have top technical advice from Boeing and Google Australia as well as a harvest of Alumni they channel there business propositions to. We won’t get onto the size of their business teams.

On top of all this these teams have been running for nearly two decades now and have the support that goes with it. Here's where our problems start. Two months ago, the Solar Car submitted highly professional bids to the SSAF committee in regards to gaining a large amount from SSAF contributions, this was categorised under what's known as the tier 4 funding band, where any student, club or staff member could bid for money.

The news came to us, however that these bids were rejected by the SRC committee who oversaw recommendations to go forward to the bidding process. Unfortunately it seemed like another occasion where the jocks and sportsmen beat out the nerds, with the Unigames bid for $200,000 beating out our bid. Of course we support our other Uni representatives, but us nerds will not rest until we have our program safe and financed!

Two years into the project we strive to find new partners, needing to raise at least another $200,000 and trying to make this project an enduring legacy at the university.

This hasn't discouraged our efforts to build the best damn solar racer we can, however.

The team is ramping up to start cooking our new chassis, with the foam mould complete and our oven (made out of a shipping container with an industrial heating element and fan by our brilliant electrical team) nearly ready. The blocks of foam will be glued together, sanded, fibreglassed and smoothed before proceeding however. To get the mould we’re making into the oven, we’ve also built a giant wheeling oven tray. This tray is made out of fibreboard, has 12 casters underneath and is about 2 metres longer than the car. It’ll be interesting when it comes time to get it out of our dirty lab and into the oven (the university has promised to replace some doors for us with a wider roller shutter).

We will also be removed from our clean lab for a predicted six weeks in the middle of our build. this is being done to accommodate the Institute for Infrastructure engineering who are building new rooms for themselves. As a consequence other rooms had to be upgraded and the lab we occupy has to have a roof put on and air conditioning installed. This is a good upgrade as the sweltering heat and freezing cold were getting to us, however the timing could not be worse. We inquired with the institute whether we could use a room that they occupy which isn’t being affected and is rarely used, however they seemed to dismiss us as just a flog in the wind student project (we’ll see who lasts longer). If all goes to plan we should be back in the lab in good time, but construction jobs, as we all know sometimes go overtime. We also got some Caution tape, which we thought was really cool.

The build rolls on!

You can follow UWS' Solar Challenge on Facebook and Twitter.

Our team still needs sponsors, so if you're keen to help the underdog get a leg up in this amazing contest, contact Greg at UWS Solar Car.

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