Summer Update

In the wake of our win at the 2009 Formula Sun Grand Prix, the team is spending the later half of the summer hard at work finalizing the designs of our next car, Centaurus II.


The Aerodynamics Team has narrowed down dozens of possible shell designs to a single concept for our next car. This concept is in the process of being polished for production. A delicate balance between weight, aerodynamic drag, a solar array optimization concerns have to be considered, as well as the interactions with the chassis and other mechanical components. In addition, newer members are being introduced to composite lay-up process by creating 1/6 scale models of the shell of Centaurus. While all of this is going on, preparations are being made to build the mold for Centaurus II as mold foam (generously donated by General Plastics) and lumber arrives in the next few weeks.


The Solar Array Team has also been busy testing concepts and preparing to power the next car. We have tested a gallium design and silicon design and have decided upon silicon solar cells for Centaurus II. Cars using the lower efficiency silicon cells are allowed 50% more array area, and we believe we can build a faster (and cheaper) car using these cells. Beyond this, we have been exploring new methods of attaching the solar cells to the car. We hope our new method will be easier to apply and adhere better our previous method. In addition, our Solar Array Team has been in close contact with industry representatives and will soon be working on a new encapsulation process that includes antireflective technology, which we believe will improve our car's power and lead us to victory!


After doing a spectacular job of debugging Centaurus, producing custom power trackers, and a new battery equalization system for Formula Sun, Electrical Team has continued to keep quite busy. When we last updated we were in the process of procuring sample battery cells and now we are in full test mode, finding the best for the next car. In addition to extensive battery research, the team is working to design and build a custom motor controller, a team first. This motor controller will be significantly smaller and lighter than our current, commercially sourced controller. Currently a prototype is on the bench and does in fact spin our NGM motor, as well as the Über motor. The Über is a team project dating back to about 2003; we believe that it will be more efficient than our current motor. If the custom motor controller/Über motor projects work out, Centaurus II will be racing with a 100% student designed and built electrical system in 2010.

Mechanical Team

The Mechanical Team has built a dynamometer, which allows the team to simulating driving conditions without actually being out on the road. This will be a huge help for the Electrical Team, as it will allow them to test systems on the car far quicker and easier than they have previously been able to. As the shell design is nearing completion, the Mechanical Team is busy integrating their chassis, roll bar, suspension, brakes and other systems into the shell. While the chassis is literally integrated, with some panels built into the shell of the car, other components, such as the roll bar, are being designed to optimize aerodynamics while comfortably fitting our driver. We are also thinking about driver ergonomics as we design adjustable brake and accelerator pedal assemblies. The team goal is to have a rolling chassis by the end of the year; significantly earlier than the team has ever done before.

July 22, 2009