October 1, 2006

Final pictures are up!

Hey everyone, all of the pictures from the last three days are finally up on the site. Sorry about the delay, we've all been busy with school.

If you want to see some more pictures, David Grilli has posted most of his pictures on his site, and Adem Rudin has a photo set online of his best/favorites.

Thanks for supporting us throughout the race!

-Adem Rudin

September 20, 2006

Rally Day 3 - The Finish Line

Rally Day 3 – The Finish Line

The team was excited to cross the finish line today. We hoped to make progress during the day and move up in the standings. Though our hopes were high, we were still confident in stirring things up.

The morning started out with sleeping in by solar car standards. Our batteries were full at the end of day 2, so breakfast did not start until 7am. Our arrival and quick departure from the Chia-Yi Cultural Center was greeted by many and we set off on a mission. Yet again, we were the quickest through most of the transit segments today. The timed sections were a little daunting, however.

The first timed segment was a flat out drag strip. There were a few bends, but we believe we reached speeds of nearly 140 kph, and the overall victor, Ashiya Sky Ace TIGA, clocked in at 165 kph! (85 mph and 100 mph, respectively) These speeds seemed incredible to us all. The second and final timed stage of the day was not much different, only shorter than the first. At the very end of the last timed stage, we began to see some motor cutout issues again.

After finishing the timed stage, our only remaining adventure was traffic and the transit back to Kaohsiung. After a few brake concerns, Dave piloted Borealis III safely across the finish line to bring our racing adventure to a close.
Overall details from the race:
- Overall position: 4th
- Overall timed stage total: 28 minutes, 51.61 seconds
- Total penalty time, 0 minutes
- Starting Position day 1: 8th place
- Starting position day 2: 6th place
- Starting position day 3: 5th place

The faster teams seemed to have superior motor control, including variable gap adjustment. This will be more motivation to work on our uber-motor and develop it for future use, should we pursue an adventure like the World Solar Rally in the future.

The continual improvement after initial troubles says a lot for this team. Really, I could not be more happy with our performance given all that we encountered in Taiwan. The team has learned what to improve, what to change completely, and most importantly how to interact globally with other engineers solving the same problem we are.

Please stay tuned as we have our exhibition and packing day tomorrow and prepare to come home to the beauty of the Twin Cities. We also have a tourism day planned on the 22nd before flying out early in the morning of the 23rd. Expect to see breathtaking photos of the countryside. If you see anything you really like, make sure to request a high-resolution image from your favorite team mate.

We look forward to seeing all of our loved ones soon.
Go Fast, Go Safe, GO GOPHERS!

-Patrick O'Connor
Project Manager

September 19, 2006

Rally Race, Day 2

The team is in incredibly high spirits despite only moving up one place through the second day of rally racing. We flew through the three timed sections with Brandon behind the wheel, and we saw none of the motor controller problems that we had yesterday. That alone was enough to satisfy us, but we had so much power to burn that we flew through the untimed stages as well. This caused us to finish the day first when we started sixth. We take pride in that the car continues to perform well in an NASC style race, and that we can run fast all day, no problem.

The racing crew has a reasonable chance of breaking in to the top three tomorrow with as strong of a day as we had today. Though, the timed sections make up such a small portion of the race that we really can not know how we will stack up against the competition. We can only wish the best for everyone and perhaps for a lucky break or five.

Jason Allen
Electrical Team

September 18, 2006

Rally Race, Day 1

Today began the rally race, and all 11 cars lined up at KUAS ready to depart at 9:00 AM. Due to the finish at the circuit race, Borealis III was the eighth car to leave the university. We began driving down the southwestern coastline on our way to the timed sections. The weather was not conducive to a solar car race, as clouds and eventually a bit of rain marred the entire day. Still, we approached the first timed section with batteries full and excited to give it a go.

The mood in the car was tense as Borealis III pulled up to the first starting gate. No one knew quite what to expect, but quickly the countdown reached zero and we were off! The vans we were riding in cannot accelerate or corner nearly as well as the solar car, so as Adem zoomed ahead, we soon lost sight of him and the car. After every twist and turn of the track, we saw nothing but open road. The excitement was building.

Alas, this was not meant to last. Motor controller issues caused the system to lock up, requiring a power cycle in mid-section that cost us at least a minute. Such problems would continue to plague us the rest of the day, and we ended up in sixth place. While not as high as we would have hoped, we are generally happy with the way things went today and have confidence that tomorrow we can make up some ground.

Jason Allen
Electrical Team

September 17, 2006

Circuit Race Results and Last Preparations

As a first disclaimer, too much happened today to capture it in a brief blog entry. To do proper justice, please address questions you have about the day's events to Patrick O'Connor or Prof. Jeff Hammer. Contact information can be found on the left side-bar.

After a good night's sleep in the dorms nearby, the team traveled back to Pingtung Airport to find Borealis III in the same good condition we left it the prior night. There was a buzz in the air and everyone was excited to finally do what we came to Taiwan to do: RACE! Typhoon Shanshan had cleared out the skies after a couple of windy days, and the morning was a beautiful start to the day.

Driving practice began shortly after our arrival. We were pleased with our laps and got both of the days drivers in the car to get acclimated to the airport circuit: long, flat straights with sharp turns at either end. Good fortune was not on our side in qualifying, however, as our driver blew a tire going around one of the hairpin-like turns. This, however, did not stop us from starting the race. We were competitive in the first heat, keeping up with the lead after a poor grid position, but again, lady luck did not swing our way, as yet another flat tire befouled our crew. We got back out on the track quickly, having lost only a lap so far. At one point, we got our lap back from the leader and eventual victor, Sky Ace TIGA of Ashiya University. However, yet another flat tire set us back. After each flat tire, the driver showed remarkable skill in piloting both himself and Borealis III to safety on wounded wheels.

Next came a decision that I am proud to say the team was mature enough to make. We were far enough behind the leader after the first heat, and we had shown that the tire performance was what limited the race for us (we were encouraging the driver to go faster because we had the array and battery power to do so). We decided that the risk was not worth the possible benefit of going back out on the track, and that we would prepare for the rally instead of jeopardizing our participation in the rally. The team then prepared Borealis III for the far more important event that begins tomorrow, including work on tires, adjustment of the motor, and cleaning of the car. While some team members were not busy due to our withdrawal, we started offering our services elsewhere to the underdogs and people that were having troubles. With some electrical help and debugging, the Iranian car, Persian Gazelle, was able to go out on the track and turn laps in the second heat. They sought help at first for a part, but we offered far more to help them run in the track event.

While the help was being given and Borealis III was off the course for the duration of the day, one of the cars of the host university overturned while cornering. Thankfully, the driver was safe and the car was able to continue. However, the car then rolled again while cornering too quickly in the first turn. This time, there was no canopy on the car, there was noticeable damage to many structures on the car, and the driver was escorted to the hospital after there was damage to his helmet. We have not yet received word on his condition, so we ask that you please keep him in your thoughts. As a show of what we presume to be perseverance, the same car then headed out on the track to finish racing in Heat 2, still without a canopy. Again, please keep the driver in your thoughts, as well thoughts of a safe journey the next three days.

We are excited for the rally to begin tomorrow. We are confident that the proper safety concerns have been taken by our team and that we will be ready for better luck to smile upon our team tomorrow (or at least we certainly hope so).

Going safe and going fast in Taiwan,
-Patrick O'Connor
Project Manager

September 16, 2006

Opening Ceremonies

I am writing right now from a dormitory a short distance from the Pingtung airport. This is the first (and only) night we will not be staying in a hotel. I suppose it is somewhat comforting that dormitories are universal, and this one is about the same quality as the ones back home. Quite a change from a five-star hotel.

Today marked the second day of opening ceremonies, and we spent the majority of the day touring around Kaohsiung and exhibiting the car in public. Typically when we take the car out on roads with normal traffic, the flow slows down some as gawkers become captivated by seeing such an unusual object. With a parade of 11 solar cars amongst an already hectic traffic system, this effect was magnified exponentially. Scooters were weaving in and out of the parade at will, with little to no regard for the fragile vehicles they were coming within an inch of hitting. The police did the best that they could but still had pretty much no control over what was going on. The team had some tense moments but we are glad to be finally through all that with the car in one piece.

In addition to the parade, Borealis III and the 10 other cars were on display at the C. K. S. Cultural Center of Kaohsiung City for a couple hours. We heard speeches from several Kaohsiung dignitaries, saw some local traditional music and dance, and were able to interact with the Taiwanese public. Renewable energy seems to be a popular theme here and many people were interested in what the solar cars had to offer.

We finished the day with an hour long commute to the airport in Pingtung, which will be the site of tomorrow's circuit race. The team is excited to finally be able to race after about a week of preparations. The race begins tomorrow at 10:30 AM and consists of two "heats" in which all the solar cars run laps around a 3 mile track for 90 minutes at a time. The winner is the car that completes the largest distance in the time. Currently our car is sitting at the airport waiting for us to return tomorrow, perform some minor optimizations, and go show everyone what Minnesota solar car is all about.

Jason Allen
Electrical Team

September 15, 2006

Scrutineering

Wake up call at 6:00 AM brought the team into racing mode to “hurry up and wait?. We ate the now usual breakfast of ethnic Japanese, Taiwanese, and Coco Rice-Crispies in the hotel. Scrutineering began at 9:00 and really went underway about a half an hour later. The day really began as we braved the scooter lanes in our solar cars to get to the National Science Museum for the inspections and tests.

When we arrived at the museum, the cars lined up in a circle outside the building, and the race officials ripped us through the different tests one team right after the other. As we were traveling to the museum, the brake lights were not functional. The car passed all the tests save the brake lights, and Jason and Sam fixed a relatively simple problem in the circuit board in time before the end of the day. We’re now licensed and ready to race! As for rest of inspections, NASC rules left us more than prepared. The car stopped in less than half what was allotted in the brake test, battery and electrical systems were well prepared to face any of the challenges we’re going to find here in Taiwan, and the team was ready to answer more than the officials wanted to ask.

After a few grocery runs and a laundry run, we went to the official kick-off dinner. Between lunch and dinner, today, we saw a feast including shrimp, abalone, shark fin, pork, lamb, chicken, fruit of all kinds, shapes, sizes, and an entire spread of cakes and pastries. Speaking at the dinner, Hans Tholstrup, the founder and honorary chairman of the World Solar Challenge in Australia, put it rather well when he said, “Taiwan may not have had the first solar car race event, but it certainly is the classiest.?

Jacques Dolan
Mechanical Team

September 14, 2006

Final Preparations

EDIT: PICTURES ARE UP!!! Please check out the links for each day on the sidebar. We regret that we can't stare ALL the pictures we've taken, but please enjoy our sampling.

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.?

Today was a day of fluidity, as the race organizers changed many things previously established. One such change was the addition of a monetary prize for first, second, and third places in both the rally and the track race. This will be extra motivation for a team already having their hearts set on success. Though some aspects of the fluidity have been frustrating (hence the quote of the prayer), the team and Borealis III have taken the changes in stride. We still have questions about the overall function of the event, but we will do our best, regardless of the circumstances.

Today’s preparations were mostly for tomorrow’s scrutineering. In the morning, Borealis III will be poked, prodded, and tested to its limits, but we are confident that the car and team will pass with flying colors.

As we move toward the start of the race, we would like to thank all of those whom support the team and car. Due to your backing, we have had the opportunity to touch the hearts and touch the lives of so many people in Taiwan. Many have left a similar impression on us. Regardless of our finish, we will take away far more from this trip than we could have ever imagined.

Please keep the safety of the organizers and teams in your mind as we take to the road for testing and scrutineering.

Patrick O’Connor
Project Manager

An update from the drivers

Over the past two days, we've been driving along the three-day race route in one of our vans. All of us are in agreement that the countryside is beautiful. The first day's route takes us down the southern coastline almost all day, while the second heads up into some mountainous territory to the north, and the third day decends back down to the northern coast and then back to Kaohsiung University. We had a a great time just taking in the sights and snapping pictures. The changes in terrain means that each day has it's own special challenges. Day one is mostly uphill on tight, two-lane roads, day two is steep uphills and even steeper downhills on wide open four-lane freeways, and the third day is generally flat.

We can't wait to get out on the road and see what we (and Borealis III) can do.

-Adem Rudin

September 13, 2006

We're still alive

Hey everyone!

Day 3 has been a fantastic day of solar car, culture, fun and adventure. For the first time, the team took the car out onto the test track using the shell. Drivers reached speeds upwards to 50mph around corners and completing quarter-mile runs in as little as 25-seconds. No specific problems were found during the testing but word has it that the electrical team may be able to squeeze a few more watts out of the car.

Meanwhile, the Borealis III team got a bit of media attention! Today, members of the press from various media organizations in Taiwan came to take pictures, film, and talk to the teams. All of the teams were brought onto the track for an exhibition and photo shoot.

The city of Koahsiung continues to impress us. Today we learned that it isn’t too hard to get around without knowing the language, when we managed to find and order lunch without a translator. Meanwhile, I myself came back to a drink stand I’d seen earlier without a guide and was able to order my drink of choice with relatively little embarrassment.

Pictures are coming! Adem and I are working on selecting the cream of the crop from the nearly one-thousand pictures that we’ve taken. We know that everyone is anxiously awaiting their arrival, so we hope they will be up fairly soon!

Once again, all is well with the team. We wish the best to our families back home and are grateful for your support, as well as the support from our gracious sponsors, including the University of Minnesota Institute of Technology and Lockheed-Martin.

-David Grilli

September 12, 2006

Race Preparations: Day 2

It was a long and hectic day today as preparing for the race days continued. The mechanical team worked hard to fix an issue with the brakes, the electrical team continued working on ensuring proper operation of electronics, and the aerodynamics team (who are all drivers of the solar car) was sent to scout out the first section of the race route.

Things were going quite well until we discovered a few interesting rule interpretations that were not written explicitly before. For example, one large change is that it seems that they require the drivers to wear some sort of fire-protective suits. We have concerns both on how we can get such a suit on short notice and whether the drivers are really any safer in that suit. We believe that the drivers will be more prone to heat exhaustion and dehydration when wearing the long, rather thick sleeves of the suit in 90 degree, extremely humid weather.

We have heard the forecast regarding the typhoon Shanshan, which is currently heading straight for Taiwan. The forecast suggests that the typhoon will turn north before it gets here, which could mean pleasant weather and racing conditions next week.

Tomorrow is more of the same, but we hope to be finished with race preparations in time for some sightseeing on Thursday.

September 11, 2006

Unpacking

Today was a very successful day of preparations. We unpacked the car and all of our tools, and were able to power it up with only minimal repairs. If only it could go so smoothly everyday. Tomorrow, we plan to take the car out for some track testing in search of other potential failure points. We also plan to scout the race route for potential trouble spots, such as long stretches of hill as we climb the eastern mountains or unusually sharp corners.

Whenever we go out, it amazes me how things are the same and at the same time, things are completely different. Much like back home, the people seem to rush from place to place, but they also take ample time to enjoy a simple meal. I have never been in a situation like it. We stick out everywhere we go, and you might think we would come across some resentment, but we have received nothing but the kindest treatment and interaction here.

Jason Allen
University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project
Electrical Team

September 10, 2006

We made it!

After 28 hours of flying and sitting in airports we made it to Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

We will be headed off to the National Kaohsiung University of Applied Sciences this morning to unpack the car and meet some of the teams that are already here. We met one of the guys from Principia University last night, he came down to say hello when we arrived at the hotel.

Our race officially begins on Friday the 15th, until then the team will be spending some time getting used to Taiwan and it's culture. With any luck we will have the car unpacked this afternoon so we can head out to acclimate our drivers to the driving patterns in Kaohsiung. Scooter/motorcycle traffic is very heavy in Taiwan. This makes maneuvering in traffic very difficult.

August 4, 2006

The car is on its way!

We have received word that Borealis III left Los Angeles on Wednesday (August 2) on a ship headed to Taiwan. It should arrive around August 17, where it will be waiting for us when we arrive on September 10.

The team completed its redesigns on schedule and expects Borealis III to be in top condition when it arrives in Taiwan. It's only a few weeks away now!

July 3, 2006

Introduction

Here we will post news and updates concerning the 2006 World Solar Rally being held in Taiwan from September 15 to September 21. Check back often for updates, especially during the race!