Hasselmo bets on Aurora: four bushes against a rock

Publish Date: 06/25/1993
Andres Micek
Staff Reporter

Never let it be said that University President Nils Hasselmo isn't a risk-taker -- at least not when the stakes involve four bushes and a rock.

Hasselmo is betting four azalea plants against a kasota stone that Aurora, the University's solar powered car, will beat Mankato State University's car in Sunrayce 93.

Mankato's president, Richard Rush, approached Hasselmo last week with a wager on the 1,100-mile race between the solar-powered cars.

The race, which began Sunday in Arlington, Texas, winds through country highways and small towns and will end Saturday at the Minnesota Zoo.

A total of 34 cars from around the country are competing.

If Mankato's Northern Light II beats Aurora, four University-developed azaleas will be planted within view of Rush's office, next to signs detailing Mankato's superiority in solar development.

The light purple azaleas are the result of a University research project begun in 1958. They can survive temperatures dipping to minus 40 degrees.

If the University wins, a 5-inch cube of kasota stone mined just north of Mankato will be delivered and displayed on campus with a plaque touting the University's solar superiority.

The race is a good chance to showcase the University's engineering talents, Hasselmo said.

Despite dreary weather, some cars have reached 50 mph during the race.

Those speeds are well short of the 75 mph posted during qualifying trials by the race leader, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

Aurora, built by Institute of Technology students, ended Wednesday's leg of the race in 24th place, with Mankato's car finishing 13th. Only two cars finished Thursday's race on time because of rain, and official ending results were unavailable.

Students worked on Aurora, which carries a $127,000 price tag, for two years. At 22 feet long, it uses 1,672 solar cells to collect the sun's rays and has an engine the size of a golf cart's.

But the race has been difficult for Aurora -- a truck towing a house passed the car on the highway Wednesday.

Still, Hasselmo is playing it cool.

"Losing wouldn't be so bad because then we'd get the University's name displayed in Mankato," he said.