The Michigan solar car team will keep its international reputation alive.
The team heads to the United Arab Emirates on Jan 15 for the inaugural Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge. Teams from six continents will race for 745 miles in solar-powered cars they designed and built themselves. The University’s team members will partner with students from Abu Dhabi University for the race.
The race coincides with the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, an effort to raise awareness about ways renewable energies can play a role in the development of the oil-rich region. After the race concludes, the teams will take part in the opening ceremonies of the World Future Energy Summit, a meeting of policymakers and business leaders.
Engineering junior Pavan Naik is the project manager for the Michigan Solar Car Team, and leads the building of the team’s vehicle. Naik said he joined the team early his freshman year because of the variety of opportunities offered within the program.
“I was looking to do something hands-on outside of the classroom,” Naik said. “The solar car team was particularly interesting because of the wide variety of fields you can go into.”
Naik said members of the team, which draws students majoring in anything from engineering to art, spend more time working on their solar car than they do in class.
“We like to joke around that we go to Michigan for the solar car team and we’re part-time students on the side,” he said. “It really varies for the amount of work that people do for the team. An easy week can be 40 hours a week and that can go up to 100.”
The team has competed in other international venues before. Since 1990, they’ve traveled to Australia for the World Solar Challenge, where they placed 9th in 2013.
Naik said this race differs from other races the team has done. In addition to racing students from Abu Dhabi University, the participants will also help their Abu Dhabi counterparts create a solar car team.
“Normally, we’ll build a car, we’ll go to Australia and we’ll race it. But in this race, we’re partnering with the team from the Abu Dhabi University,” Naik said. “We’re going there to teach them how to start their own solar car team. We’re racing with them as well, so it’s a learning opportunity on both ends.”
And the students from Abu Dhabi University are looking forward to working with the Michigan Solar Car Team.
“I am looking forward to gaining valuable experience from the U-M Solar Car Team,” said Mohammed Ziauddin Mohammed Habeebuddin, a mechanical engineering student at Abu Dhabi University, in a press release. “I hope that it will be an unforgettable learning experience for me.”
Correction appended: A previous version of this article misstated the name of the solar car as “Quantum.”