Simplicity and Reliability Worked for Minnesota
The "Aurora-II" team from the University of Minnesota set a goal of finishing in the top ten in Sunrayce 95. With consistent high finishes, a first-place spot on Day seven, and a second-place overall standing, the team did just that. Project Co-manager Jessica Gallagher stressed the desire to finish every leg of the r ace without trailering, and the team and car accomplished that and more, finishing in the top five every day.
The project was a two-year effort; team members competing in Sunrayce 93 were already discussing plans to improve on their 93 vehicle. "We talked about things that worked for other teams and how we might even improve on those designs," Jessica explains. "We liked the design of the
California State University - Los Angeles car, but we managed to make ours lighter - just under 800 pounds." The team even planned to mount solar cells on the sides of the vehicle similar to the method employed by other teams using this type of design. Unfortunately, the car was right at the maximum width allowed for Sunrayce 95, and the cells and mounting would make the car too wide. So, the team forfeited this option. Considering their performance throughout the race, it did not hurt their performance much.
Even though the planning and design started quite early, the team wanted to keep things simple. Six of the nine team leaders were on the 93 team, and they realized that a car can't win the race if it spends much time on the side of the road or in a trailer.
The frame was designed and built by team members using prefabricated composite sheets, like that used in aircraft, with a conventional A-arm suspension. Likewise, the body was designed and completely laid up by the students. The car was designed with a low center of gravity and equal weight distribution between all three wheels, and it handles brilliantly. The car suffered only one flat tire, and was caused by a poorly installed inner tube.
With their second-place standing in the overall competition, the "Aurora-II" team proved that a simple design can be extremely competitive in a race that spans more than 1100 miles and nine days!
-Eric Nelson, Sunrayce 95 Inspector