The University’s Solar Car Team will be competing in its first race of the season this week, the Formula Sun Grand Prix, in Topeka, Kan. The five-day event provides an opportunity for 40 teams from various parts of the country, to present their cars.
“Because this race is only 140 miles, it is more a chance to show off the cars than really test them. Our real goal is to enter the best team and the best car in the 2005 American Solar challenge,” Brackney said.
In order to fine-tune the car in a short period of time, the team had to work 40 hours per week during the school year and 14 hours per day since classes finished.
Many team members have expressed optimism that the long hours will pay off during the races.
“We have an excellent chance of placing first in the Formula Sun, which would give us the pull position (a leading start) in the American Solar Challenge,” said Max Ross, racer and head mechanical engineer.
Mike Adams, a team mechanical engineering technician, said he spends more time with his teammates than with his friends.
“But you don’t feel like you’re not being social,” Adams said, “There is an extremely defined chain of command, which we respect and use, but we also keep it friendly on the inside. Talking business all the time does get boring.”
Brackney, a Business senior and project manager of the team, oversees the fundraising, design, construction and racing of the team’s solar-powered vehicle.
Momentum, the team’s new car, accommodates one racer who steers the car with two push-pull handlebars while lying in a reclined position. The car relies on a video camera display instead of mirrors.
“You can’t be claustrophobic to race this car because the windshield comes to about right here,” Brackney said as he held his hand two inches from his face.
He described racing as “incredibly testing” because of the seating position and the intense heat. Inside the car, the temperature is 30 to 40 degrees hotter than the outside temperature and racing season starts in the summer.
Brackeny said the driver needs his team to help him function the car.
“Essentially, we make the driver a remote control. He just follows directions on a radio from the strategy team members who decide when and how to turn and to adjust speed,” Brackney said.