Dozens of people braved the cold to attend to the unveiling of the University’s solar car, SpectrUM, on May 23 at the Media Union in North Campus.
SpectrUM, the solar car created by 120 undergraduates and three graduates from the Engineering school as well as 20 Business school students, will enter the American Solar Challenge solar car race in Chicago on July 13.
“Michigan has a history of having one of the most innovative solar car racing programs,” Project Manager and alum Josh Harmsen said.
In fact, since 1990 Michigan has entered the Challenge six times, winning the race a total of three times, including last year.
“What you see here today represents two years of planning,” Engineering Dean Stephen Director said. “This competition has become increasingly more competitive over the years.”
The Challenge starts in Chicago and ends in Los Angeles, with racers traveling the entire length of the race on historic Route 66.
Also, according to a written statement put out by the Engineering school, “In October, the team hopes to take SpectrUM to the premiere solar car event, the World Solar Challenge in Australia, which runs 1800 miles from Darwin to Adelaide.”
The mechanism behind powering SpectrUM is not as difficult as many may think, “the electricity from our solar panel gets put into a lithium ion battery pack, which is similar to a large cell phone battery, and powers the car,” Crew Chief, Engineering Director and Rackham student Jeff Chen said.
This year, however, many things are new to the University’s solar car racing program.
SpectrUM, which is estimated by Harmsen to cost upwards of $ 800,000, is the first two-seater ever utilized by the racing crew. This is the first time for any crew member of SpectrUM to race a University solar car.
“A lot of development has gone into the electronics of the car,” Chen said.
Harmsen added the newest technological development of SpectrUM concerns the control of the car’s operating systems. This year, the steering wheel of the solar car is digitally encoded, enabling the driver to remotely process all of the car’s operating systems from data he receives.
Harmsen, Director and Chen all cited corporate sponsorship as one of the most important contributions to the development of SpectrUM.
“We would not be where we are without sponsorship. We simply wouldn’t exist,” Chen said.
Speaking at the unveiling, sponsor and General Motors Executive Director of Vehicle Systems North America Robert Kruse said, “anyone that gets to sponsor this event gets to work with the best and brightest students.”
“Participating in the solar car is the closest students can get to working in a corporate production atmosphere,” Gilchrest added.
Kruse also added that he was there recruiting for his company.
There are high expectations for the all-new crew of SpectrUM, as a result of previous successes.
“We don’t feel pressured – we are more excited about (our) tradition and confident in the ability and potential of our vehicle, ” Harmsen said. “We look forward to the challenge.”
SpectrUM driver, mechanical technician and alum Brian Cheung added, “of course we want to win, and in that sense we are following in the footsteps of a champion. But, still, we are our own team and we are going to do it our own way.”
During the race it will be possible to track the position of the University’s solar car through a GPS system on the internet.