Project Differs from `Magic' Textbook World

Students learn solutions for the problems that equations can't solve

Our years of textbook learning provide many of the tools necessary for survival in the real work. But, regrettably, they also provide us with "crutches"-the magic equations that fit all assigned problems and the convenient answers in the back of the book.
This is where the Solar Vehicle Project differs. For many of us, the project functions as a first step into the real world of "hands on" engineering. With Sunrayce 95, the assigned problem is clear: win. But the path to a correct answer is where things get a bit more abstract.

Our first step in designing Aurora-II was to hold several review sessions in which both the technical and procedural aspects of our Sunrayce 93 effort. One problem we noted was that many specifications and concepts were overly dependent upon one another. To avoid this problem, we selected a modular vehicle concept that allows work to proceed on several components simultaneously.

The modular design is composed of two major subsystems: the chassis pod, consisting of the frame, suspension, steering, motor, controls, wiring, and safety gear; and the aerodynamic shell, consisting of the composite structure and solar cell modules. As components near completion, they are bench tested, assembled into subsystems and integrated into the final vehicle assembly for several test/modify cycles.

At times it is a struggle to handle all the details necessary to develop and test a competitive vehicle. Many times we've had to "solve" the same problem three or four times until it finally works.

But later, the realization sets in that it does work and that we, as a team, solved the problem.

Paul Kelsey