in town for free camps
NOTE: I am not so narcissistic as to think that my life is deserving of a novel, but I didn't realize just how much information would be involved in this story. I originally intended to write about an alternative perspective to the OHL vs. NCAA debate, but it turned into a story about my hockey life and I think it works better this way. I really hope I'm not boring the shit out of you guys, thanks for reading.
Why'd you turn against me, Gordon? For six years, I taughtcha how to skate, I taughtcha how to score, I taughtcha how to go for the "W". You could have been one of the greats. An' now look at yourself. You're not even a has-been. You're a never-was. " - Mighty Ducks
The OHL draft year begins the day after the previous one takes place. Scouts never stop scouting. Players never stop playing, and parents never cease to believe their child is the foremost deserving of attention. My coach arranged to have various scouts and OHL executives speak to us prior to the season so we would know what to expect. The most common advice in no particular order:
1. Lay off the beer/marijuana 2. Don't change your game just to impress scouts (most kids had trouble with this one) 3. Do not take steroids, they don't help with hockey and they will destroy your teenage body 4. Teams will absolutely inquire about your character, so don't be an idiot off the ice or at school.
This period in my life seemed like one long existential crisis. Who was I? Was I the type of guy who would go to the OHL or should I hold out for a letterman jacket? I will say this: I don't remember anything from my social life as a 15 year old. I'm pretty sure there were girlfriends, parties, and hangouts but I don't remember much of it. Ask me about my hockey season though and I can probably recall my team's record against every other team in the league, right down to which goalie was playing on each side, and who were the top performers from each game.
In a game that featured two teams with several top prospects, there would be at least 15-20 scouts in the stands who were identifiable by the logo-jacket and notepad. I was nervous to the point of barely being able to speak prior to each and every game I played.
When the year begins, Central Scouting releases a preliminary draft list with about 100 kids on it. Teams add players as the year goes on which results in a mid-term ranking with 300 players and the list ends up at 600 kids who are eligible in the final version. Only 300 get drafted in total. The rankings go as such:
AA - Bluechipper, rounds 1-2
A - Rounds 3-6
B - Rounds 7-10
c - Rounds 11-16
Mind you, every eligible player receives a letter grade, and only half of the total players on the list would get drafted at all. Prior to the season, to my dismay i received an A grade, pegging me to go in rounds 3-6. Oh well, maybe it had something to do with my flirtation with college hockey.
Letters from colleges started coming in. The first letter I got was from Ohio State. It said something along the lines of "We recently scouted you at the (whatever) high school tournament and are aware of your talents, we will continue to scout you." That was a funny one because I never played high school hockey in my life. Moreover, I wasn't even aware that Ohio State had a hockey program. Letters continued to roll in. Holy Cross, Michigan State, Maine, Minnesota, Notre Dame. No Michigan. Remember, schools can't make offers to kids that young. The letters all contained generic language talking about educational opportunities saying that they were basically aware of my existence along with some brochure and questionnaire. Nothing from the actual coaches, and nothing personal at all.
I was very much wanting some sign from the University of Michigan that they were interested. I began sending emails to who I thought was Coach Berenson. Basically, I wrote about my hopes and dreams and that it would be an honor to play for Michigan. I did so at least every two weeks all season, giving updates on my stats and performances. I don't even remember where I got the email or if he was reading them. I didn't send out any other emails, only to Michigan.
My season was going splendidly. The mid-term rankings came out and I was pushed to a AA projection. What a feeling. I remember the same week that the rankings came out my grade 10 math teacher told me that Dale Hunter (Owner/head coach London Knights) had called him to ask what kind of kid I was, if I did my homework, and if I treated my classmates with respect. A week later he called my house to have a good, long conversation about what the Knights had to offer for a young man. We talked for at least 30 minutes and the conversation ended with him saying that he wanted me with their 2nd round pick but that I probably wouldn't last that far (the Knights were a powerhouse, picking last in each round). This wasn't the first such call I had received, but it became at least an every other day occurrence at this time, along with giant packages in the mail with brochures from each club containing hand written letters from coaches/GM's.
In football recruiting terms, I was a 4-star prospect, probably somewhere just inside or outside the Rivals 100. Now imagine a prospect lists Michigan in his top 5 with LSU, Bama, USC, Florida. Then, tell Brady Hoke that he is the only one of those coaches who is not allowed to speak with said prospect at any point during his senior season. In fact, he's not even allowed to let him know that they want him there at all. Meanwhile, Les Miles and Nick Saban are speaking to him daily, making in-home visits, and sending emails. That's what NCAA hockey deals with every single year against the CHL.
I still wasn't wavering on Michigan, but I didn't know what to do. I began to tell scouts that I would go to the NCAA only if I could go to Michigan, otherwise I'd be in the OHL. The only reason I said this was so that the hockey community would know that I wanted to go to Michigan. The hope was that this information would make it to someone important in Ann Arbor at which point the information would trickle back to me as to whether they were interested or not.
This worked, kind of. There are these companies that exist that you pay to promote you as a prospect. They are mostly geared toward helping Canadians get NCAA attention. I got two or three calls, all from different people claiming to work for various services inquiring about my intentions. I was not paying anyone for this service, they just called me.
"Hey, I heard you're interested in the NCAA. Good for you, smart guy like you should be doing that."
"I am interested, but only in Michigan."
"Oh really, I was going to suggest you look elsewhere, I know they have their eye on some other prospects and I think a big gritty forward like yourself is better suited to the OHL."
"What, you just said I should be playing in the NCAA"
"I'm just saying, I don't think Michigan is interested, maybe you should look at other schools. But you never know, right?"
"Yeah, right, cya"
SHIT!?! Who the hell was that and why is he taking a dump on my dreams? I told people about this call and most said not to worry about it. Chances are, according to my coaches and friends, that it was someone from an OHL team who knows that only want to play for Michigan and will otherwise go to the O.
At this point, I was getting extremely upset and impatient. Rules be damned! Michigan, if you're interested, give me some sort of sign. Anything will do.
I started to hear from every direction that there were several top division 1 scholarships available to me, but that Michigan would probably not be one of them unless I was willing to wait at least a year for them to see where their scholarship situation stood. At this point, the information was becoming so similar from all sides that I had to assume it was true.
That is until I finally got the letter. Stacked somewhere in between the Oshawa Generals and Bowling Green was a letter with a block M in the corner. It contained a brochure for the University, a questionnaire, and the contact information for the coaches. Turns out, I had not been emailing coach Berenson at all, but now I had his real address. I emailed him and got a response from an assistant coach. He told me to call him.
WHAT?! I can call these people?! How was this not explained to me before? I had never bothered to email any other school and since the player must initiate contact, they couldn't reach out to me. This changed things. I called the number several times and left messages, but nothing. Then finally, someone picked up and we had a good, long conversation.
While these conversations excited me, they were generic and non-informative. I still had no idea where I stood with them, and that was not a good thing.
Draft day was 3 months away and I was still hearing through the grapevine that I was not a plan A player for Michigan. Shit was about to hit the fan.
Michigan kept the commitment train rolling by landing Matt Godin and 2013 QB Shane Morris last week. With 11 commitments already in the 2012 class it doesn't look like things will slow down just yet. Here's a look at some recent happenings, and where Michigan is at with a few new prospects.
6'5", 270 lbs.
Keenan is a versatile lineman that has racked up around 15 offers from Arizona, Arkansas, Michigan, Mississippi State, and Tennessee, amongst others. Despite the fact that Trey lives in Texas he has some roots in Michigan.
Michigan came by the other day, Coach Funk did. We plan on making it up this summer because my grandma still lives in St. Clare Shores, that's where my dad's from. He played at Northwood and he's a big Michigan guy. He grew up with the 70's and 80's teams when Michigan was cranking out good teams. He always cheered for Michigan.
Trey has been to Ann Arbor before, just not for a football game.
Before I was a football player I was a big hockey player. We went to Ann Arbor for a hockey game once. I played hockey until I was 15, and I was actually drafted by the Seattle Thunderbirds in the Western league.
Michigan already has one former hockey player turned offensive lineman in Ben Braden. It would be pretty unique to have two in one class. The Wolverines seem to be high on Keenan's list for a number of reason.
Coach Funk said they're in a real shortage of offensive linemen, they only have eleven. They want to try to get six out of our class. I think he likes how athletic I am, and I'm strong enough to be in lifting meets.
It seems as though the Michigan coaches are positioning themselves to make Keenan's final list as well.
I want to figure out my list by the schools that I feel like have invested time in me, coming by my school, and making the extra effort with handwritten letters like Michigan has. If football didn't happen that I'd still love going to school there. I also want to go to a place that could push me football wise and if everything worked out right, get me to the next level. I think Michigan fits those points.
He plans on having his narrowed down list out by the end of this school year. As he said he'll make it up to Michigan sometime in the summer. Ultimately he would like to have his final decision made before his senior year starts up at the end of summer.
6'1", 175 lbs.
Michigan is in great shape with a few defensive backs that already hold offers. The coaches, however, are still offering defensive back prospects that they think fit their system. Glenville DB De'von Bogard is the most recent recipient, and Will Hines could potentially be on that list as well. I have been in contact with Hines for some time now, but he believes that things are starting to pick up.
I have eight offers so far and I think Texas A&M and Michigan might be close to offering. Michigan came by the school the other day. Coach Funk said he liked my updated highlight film and the defensive coordinator just needed to look at it. He's going to look at it in the next few weeks I guess.
I believe the coaches will be out recruiting these next couple weeks, so Mattison will probably watch his film after that. Hines said that he does have a top list right now, but that could change if some schools jump in the mix.
Right now it's Arkansas, Baylor, Missouri, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma State. Those are the top five that have offered. If Michigan offers then they'll probably take Notre Dame's spot.
Hines doesn't know too much about Michigan yet, but is definitely hoping for an offer.
They have a great history, a great program, and they make a lot of great players. It's going to be tough to get up there, but I am going to try to get up there for a visit. I'd like to make my decision towards the end of summer after I get some visits in.
Like I said Michigan is in great shape with a few other defensive backs, so we'll see in the near future how many spots are left.
6'3", 235 lbs.
Michigan has already extended a few offers to 2013 prospects. Commit Shane Morris, and Ohio super Dymonte Thomas were the first two. The third is Detroit Catholic Central ATH Wyatt Shallman.
[Michigan] offered me in person. Me, my dad, my mom, and sister all met the coaches. We went in and talked to Coach Hoke and he offered. We were just kind of small talking and then he said, by the way you have a full scholarship to go here that will pay for your education. We just kind of looked at each other, and my mom cried. It didn't really sink in to me until I was driving away from the stadium and I could see it in the rear view, as cliche as that sounds.
Cincinnati has also offered Shallman, and he's hearing from MSU as well. The interesting part of the Michigan offer is that the coaching staff has told him they want him as a tailback, not a fullback.
I was offered as a tailback at Michigan. There's a common misconception that I'm big and will play fullback. I believe that I could be a different type of tailback. I had a long talk with Fred Jackson. They were telling me how the offensive coordinator came from Auburn with Ronnie Brown. Everyone said Ronnie was a fullback, but they noticed his speed and used him as a tailback. I feel like there's some parallels with him, and they told me I'd be dotting the i.
Even though Michigan was his first offer, Penn State was where his recruitment started. That seems to have left an impression on him as well.
Penn State is really the first school to start recruiting me. I went down to a camp after freshman year and they started talking to me after that. With them being my first influence in recruiting really intrigued me. I would love to get an offer from them because of all the tradition they bring to the table.
Penn State may have been the early bird, but Shallman's family will also factor in to his decision.
It's a great thing for my family to have this offer, because they're a football family. I was never a football fan growing up until about 8th grade. My mom is a crazy Michigan fan, she has bumper stickers that say Oh How I Hate Ohio State and everything. It will probably take me awhile to make my final decision, too. It involves my whole family, they're my rock and this is a family decision. I'm going to take my time with everything.
Wyatt is lucky to have a good foundation to support him, and he also has a good friend that recently went through the recruiting process as well.
Me and Matt [Godin] are really good friends. He was kind of my mentor this season, and he was a sophomore on varsity also. We've talked a little bit about recruiting and Michigan but we haven't had a lot of time to sit down and talk about it. Once you commit you're kind of a recruiter for that school so I'm sure he'll try to do that with me.
Shallman is nowhere near a decision, obviously, and plans to let everything take its course.
Ohio DE Chris Wormley recently said Michigan was his leader in a Toledo Blade article. Wormley told me last week that he thinks he's inching closer to a decision. Once track is over in June is when he'll start to focus on his recruitment.
Instate DB Terry Richardson will most likely be making his announcement this week. It will probably be Tuesday or Thursday, according to his coach. I'll let you know once I have the official word. An early decision is good for Michigan. [Ed: The announcement is set for Tuesday at 11:45am]
Ohio DE Adolphus Washington told me that he will be making a trip to Michigan soon. It's safe to assume that he will bring his teammate WR Dwayne Stanford with him as well. Look for that to happen in the next two weeks.
There's been a rumor running around that Michigan may be getting a visit from QB Gunner Kiel. I haven't confirmed that yet, but there's been a lot of smoke around Kiel's name lately, so keep an eye on that. [Ed: Source of the smoke seems to be Facebook stalkers noting a Kiel wall post from Borges asking if he's coming in this weekend. If he does end up on campus that's a very good sign since he was just in Ann Arbor. Rapid-fire visits like that usually mean the school being visited is the leader.]
Georgia DT Jordan Watkins is expecting a visit from the Michigan coaches this week, or next. Watkins has a ton of offers, has a 3.7 GPA, and even plays the cello.
A couple quick notes on a few questions that keep coming up. It looks as though the Michigan coaches have cooled on TE Ron Thompson for now. His coach is planning on calling the Michigan coaches this week to find out what's going on. Please try not to speculate too much here.
Illinois DB Anthony Standifer had to reschedule his visit this past week because his father couldn't make it. He plans on rescheduling it in roughly two weeks, once the coaches are back from recruiting trips. Michigan is still in good shape with him. The new offers from the likes of Notre Dame may cause him to slow things down, but when he visits a commitment is possible.
I was told and reported awhile ago that Michigan and Rutgers were probably the top two schools for New York DB Wayne Morgan. I was told recently that Michigan may have taken over the top spot for Morgan by his coach. Both Morgan and his coaches have been impressed with the Wolverine coaching staff.
A long, long time ago I did some analysis on the correlation between defensive performance and player experience. The results showed, somewhat surprisingly, no correlation. However, the consistent knock was that the analysis leaves out player talent level. This article will hopefully lay that issue to rest. We will look at the talent level of defenses throughout the NCAA, examine the correlation between the average rivals star rating of the defensive players on the two-deep and the defensive performance, and conclude that it is quite significant. We will weep a little at Michigan's poor performance, but end up hopeful that from the ashes of 2010, a salvageable defense can rise in 2011.
As before, I'm scraping the depth chart data from rivals for the 97 teams for which it is available, and for this analysis, using only the defensive players. As before, I calculate "experience" from the players academic year (fr = 1, so = 2, jr = 3, se = 4, gs = 5, rs += 1).* I then take a simple average to come up with an experience score for the defense.
Next, I scraped the rivals recruiting database to get star ratings. Unfortunately, even though both data sources are from rivals, they have a significant amount of mismatches, so I had to go back through and find ratings for several hundred players, in cases where, for example, rivals had the full name in the two-deep but only the first initial in the recruiting database. Yes, this was a massive pain in my ass**, and it is why this analysis doesn't include offensive data - I didn't feel like looking up another several hundred players***. Players that I couldn't find got 1 star. (eg, the Michigan 1 stars are: Moundros, Kovacs, Leach) Finally, with stars for every player, I took an average for each defense.
"Defensive Performance" comes from Football Outsiders. I'm back to using the S&P+ out of personal preference.
First lets look at a plot of experience vs talent for defenses in the NCAA last year:
Each point is a team, their average "talent" as measured by rivals star ratings is on the X axis, and "experience", as measured by average years on the team, is on the Y axis. The blue lines cross at Michigan's point. As you can see, Michigan's defense last year averaged right around 3 stars, which is not the worst in the NCAA but certainly not the best.
Lets summarize this data with a bunch of tables:
Teams with most talented defenses:
Teams with least talented defenses:
Talent on Big 10 teams + Nebraska and ND:
Teams nearest to Michigan by Euclidian distance:
|Team||Stars avg.||Exp. avg.|
Huh. . . that's actually some pretty good company.
Ok, next, lets look at how talent correlates with defensive performance:
Finally - a good correlation! After staring at those experience vs performance shotgun blasts, this is beautiful. Clearly, having a more talented defense leads to better performance. In a linear regression model with defensive talent (avg. rivals stars) and defensive experience (avg. years on team) as predictors and defensive performance (Football Outsiders' S&P+) as the target, talent is a significant predictor (p = 3.49e-11) of defensive performance with a large effect size (each avg star increases a defense's S&P+ score by 14.8). R2 is so-so, at 0.38. However, as we saw in previous analyses, years on the team is still not a significant predictor (p = 0.84). This underscores the extreme importance of recruiting.
The blue lines cross on Michigans point. Teams with the same level of talent turned in much better defensive performances, and teams with similar defensive performances pulled it off with much less talent. Blerg.
If we take the red line (best fit line) as a gauge of the performance a team should be able to get from a group of players with a given telant level, we can look at who is overperforming and underperforming that prediction by looking at the distance of the actual performance from the red line.
Top 10 outperforming their talent level:
|Team||Gain over Predicted|
Top 10 underperforming their talent level:
|Team||Loss from Predicted|
Big 10 + Nebraska and ND:
|Team||Distance from Expected|
I've said it before, I'll say it again: Blerg.
Interestingly, even after including talent in the regression, experience ("years on the team") is still nowhere close to being a significant predictor of defensive performance. Getting older is not guaranteed to make your team appreciably better, but getting talent on the field does. There is also clearly a range of outcomes available at each level of talent, exemplefied by Boise State and TCU (assuming FO S&P+ really does account for strength of schedule). We might attribute this to a factor not included in the regression analysis, eg. "coaching".
All told, there are no excuses in Michigan's average experience or talent level that can account for the defensive performance in 2010. In terms of average talent and experience, this team resembles some of the best teams in the country, including the national champions. Hopefully, this means there is no reason that there can't be a huge turnaround in 2011.
Unfortunately, SD State doesn't have a depth chart on rivals, so they weren't included in this analysis. It might be interesting to compare their performance to expectations - maybe I'll do that for my next diary.
* Yes, I know this counts "years on the team" and not "years as a starter", quit telling me that.
** I discovered a bug in rivals recruit search. Go here: http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/recruiting/recruit-search and put Greg Banks in the first and last name boxes, and select "any year" in the drop down. Hit search. Now go back and search for Greg Bank.
*** Though if anyone wants to help me compile this data I'd be open to that, we could use more excellent articles like this one: http://mgoblog.com/diaries/recruiting-bias-and-accuracy
The Michigan commitment train never stops. Back to the front page we go! Action since last rankings:
5-9-11 Penn State gains commitment from Brian Gaia.
5-12-11 Michigan gains commitment from Matt Godin. Illinois gains commitment from Jason Robertson.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Watchlist||24/7 Avg|
Rivals has released their initial rankings, so instead of watchlist guys, I'm going on the 5-star system for them. Remember, currently unranked prospects by any service receive 1 star.
Full data after the jump.
I remember the scene vividly. Immediately following 6:30a.m practice, my coaches called me into a separate room and asked me to sit down. All five of them sitting across from me, they explained how important tomorrow night's game was:
"This is the biggest game of your career so far, their captain, like you, is also one of the best players in Ontario. If we win, people will say you're better than him. We always support you, but if we lose, people are going to blame you and say that he's better than you. Do you want that? Get to sleep early tonight, make sure you eat lots of carbs, protein tomorrow, and drink water all day. When I talk to your teacher, I want to hear from her that you were asking to go to the bathroom all day."
I was 8 years old.
Every parent, and i mean EVERY parent of a child who plays AAA hockey in Ontario believes their child will some day play in the NHL. Most will never even sniff the OHL.
In Ontario, if you're good at hockey you play in the OHL. Period. In many O cities, the players are celebrities among the adults, and heroes among the children. For me, from a young age it was assumed that I was good enough to play in the OHL and probably the NHL. This, of course, was the view of the locals who had a distorted view of just how hard it was to make it.
One summer, I was training with a group of top under-15 players at the local arena. On the arena's second rink was a group of professional players who skated together in the summer. It was either: current NHL players, former NHL players, current OHL players, or the absolute elite from junior B or CIS. They need an extra player and came to our side to see who was playing. The hockey community being relatively small, they recognized me as a top young prospect and asked me to go play with them. I was incredibly excited and nervous. They made me play defense, not my position, but I didn't care. On my second shift, Andy McDonald (current St Louis Blue and former Hobey Baker finalist) came down the wing and put it through my legs, causing me to fall over, and proceeded to score. My teammates were not pleased. About five minutes later, Andy McDonald was coming down the wing again, and I anticipated the same move, but it was a fake. He treated me like a pylon and scored again. Immediately after the goal, Steve Ott (current Dallas Star) came up to me and told me to get off the ice and go back to practice. As I was leaving, I could hear them yelling at each other.
Steve Ott: "Jesus Christ, where'd you find that fuckin guy, you idiot? He cost us two goals."
Steve Downie (TB Lightning): "He's supposed to be one of the best 13 year olds around, I don't know, get off my ass."
That is the culture. Nobody thought it was out of the ordinary to treat a young kid like that. Not even me. Perform or get off the ice. There was probably over $5,000 in bets on that game between the NHL guys. I was costing someone money.
Secretly, I didn't want anything to do with the OHL. Every OHL player I knew seemed like an arrogant idiot with no intelligence to back it up. School was my refuge. I am a nerd who happens to have athletic ability. School was the only aspect of my life where nobody put pressure on me. My cousin, a walk-on football player for Lloyd Carr, turned me into a Michigan fan. He was my hero, ten feet tall to me. He took me to the big house and gave me tickets to the games so I could go with my uncle.
After a game, he arranged for one of the hockey trainers to give me personal tour of Yost Arena and the dressing rooms where the players hung out. The trainer showed me around, explained to me how I couldn't walk on the block M in the middle of the carpet. He told me about all the great Michigan hockey players who were current NHL draft picks, and the others who were now lawyers, doctors and business professionals. Then I watched them play. The atmosphere was shocking to me. The band, the chants, the pretty female students, the winged helmets. I was used to the OHL where leather hats and handle-bar mustaches are the norm. That was it, forget the OHL. I'm going to Michigan.
Over the next two summers, I tried out and made a top-prospects team. There are dozens of teams like this. The teams play in summer tournaments designed to give scouts a chance to see the best players before their draft-year season. While I was probably one of the bottom 2 players on both teams I played on, my teammates included Drew Doughty, Sam Gagner, and Logan Couture.
These tournaments were my first actual contact with scouts. I was honest with them. I told them I was about 50/50 on my decision to play in the OHL or go the college route.
Truth is, I wasn't 50/50 at all. I was 100% on Michigan. The question is, was Michigan 100% on me?
PART 2 TOMORROW: Draft Year/College Recruiting and Beyond
When we last saw the UM Solar Car Team, they were proudly winning the 2010 American Solar Car Challenge. Here they’re shown escorting their vehicle, Infinium, across the finish line at Naperville High School in Naperville, Illinois (a far western suburb of Chicago).
The following day, they got to hoist some hardware in front of Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.
image courtesy of UMSolar
Who is the UM Solar Car team?
“The University of Michigan Solar Car Team (UMsolar) is an entirely student-run organization that designs and builds solar-powered vehicles. The team races both nationally and internationally. Since its establishment in 1990, the team has built 10 vehicles, won the American Solar Challenge six times, and placed third in the World Solar Challenge four times. UMsolar is widely recognized as the most successful team in North America.”
The Team, The Team, The Team
It takes the team two years to build a car. Design improvements and the building of a new car starts immediately after the most recent one is complete. During summer months, the team is either; participating in the June American race (American Solar Challenge) or shipping team members and supplies to Australia in order to race internationally (World Solar Challenge). The race crew consists of about twenty-five people.
image courtesy of UMSolar
This year (2011) the crew will take the fall school semester off in order to race in the World Solar Challenge. Held during the month of October, the crew ships off to Australia in early September. They will pick up the semi-truck and solar car that has been shipped earlier. A solid month of grueling testing will follow. The team strategists need to acclimate; predicting car performance and energy usage in the Australian sun. Engineers will become familiar with the Australian road network. Eventually, the crew holds a mock race from one side of the country to the other, approximately 1800 miles. Meanwhile, interim leaders take charge, back home, to keep the team running efficiently.
The Team is comprised of four main parts; Engineering, Business, Strategy and Operations. UMsolar is so successful because of specialization within the team. Engineering builds the car. Additionally, engineering team members are further separated into segments; aerodynamics and body, mechanical, electrical, and micro-electrical. Almost every system on the vehicle is custom-designed and built for each race. Business makes the team known to the world. Also, it procures all the parts that are required. Often, the cost exceeds $1.2 million. Strategy performs weather testing and designs custom computer programs to determine the most efficient way to harness and utilize solar energy. This is done so that the performance of the vehicle, on race day, is the best it can be. Operations does all the remaining (hard) work, ensuring the team runs smoothly. This includes shipping the team (vehicles and members) to Australia and maintaining camp, in various locations, for several months.
“The University of Michigan Solar Car Team is comprised of the most talented and driven members of the University from a wide array of disciplines. By developing the best traits within each student, these individuals unite as a team in pursuit of unprecedented excellence. The team implements cutting-edge technology and creative innovations to produce and race a world-class solar car. Extending beyond racing, the team reaches out to the local, national, and international communities. Through partnership with the best companies and individuals, the team’s internal strength translates into external success, driving it to be the best solar car program in the world.”
- 1990 – Sunrunner: Built only a year before the inaugural 1990 SunRayce, Michigan’s first solar car won the event and went on to place third in the 1990 World Solar Challenge.
- 1993 – Maize and Blue: After an extra year to raise money and improve design, this team appeared poised to better the record of 1990's Sunrunner. After finishing first in the 1993 SunRayce, Maize and Blue experienced severe problems with their high-powered solar array and finished seventh at the 1993 World Solar Challenge.
- 1995 – Solar Vision
- 1997 – Wolverine
- 1999 – Maize Blaze: Competed in both the 1999 ASC and WSC
- 2001 – M Pulse: Despite a testing accident, just seventeen days before the race, M-Pulse’s unique design propelled it to a first-place finish in the 2001 American Solar Challenge, Michigan’s third national championship. It also went on to place third in the 2001 World Solar Challenge
- 2003 – SpectruM: the convention of naming the vehicle with a word that ends with the letters “um” begins.
- 2005 – Momentum: finished first in the 2005 North American Solar Challenge, the longest solar car race ever held (Texas to Calgary, Canada).
- 2007 – Continuum: first vehicle to feature the team’s innovative concentrator system.
- 2009 – Infinium: placed first in the American Solar Challenge, the first team in the history of the race to win three National Championships in a row. This car also received the Technical Innovation Award for their ground-breaking concentrator system.
- 2011 – Quantum: unveiled this month, will compete in the WSC, in Australia, in October.
During the week of May 2, 2011, UMsolar participated in the Formula Sun Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. They chose not to compete because the car’s solar array is not yet installed (that is, there are no solar cells on the car). Using Infinium’s solar array to charge the battery, Quantum ticked off laps while the team gathered data and fine-tuned their processes. At one point, Quantum completed 90 laps within three hours and thirty minutes. To say the car is fast is an understatement, it’s also eerily quiet. Troy Halm was pretty smooth behind the wheel. He eventually took some pretty sharp corners without using the brakes to set the car’s suspension. I chatted a little with Jordan Feight (Strategy) who told me the drivers had received training, from Ford, and that they needed to work on being smooth and reduce the amount of forward momentum lost through side loading.
I also spoke with Chris Hilger (Business and Operations Director). He was kind enough to answer direct questions involving a brand new car. I was a little surprised; usually responses to direct questions are met with slightly vague answers. Then again, perhaps I wasn’t asking “sensitive” enough questions.
At last summer’s American Solar Challenge, I met one of the drivers from the 2005 team (Momentum), Max Ross. Max and his fellow teammates defeated the University of Minnesota in the closest American Solar Challenge (iirc). After 1500 miles of racing, Momentum finished ten minutes ahead of the Golden Gophers. Max is one of those people that radiates energy. He’s like a personification of a Red Bull. Due to the “family nature” of UMsolar, former team members support the current team while the current team considers former members a valuable resource. Max was able to get me access to Infinium as well as explain, in high detail, how various components worked. Thanks Max.
Also participating in the FSGP were: University of Kentucky, Illinois State University, Iowa State University, Missouri S&T, Northwestern University, University of Minnesota and Michigan State University.
University of Minnesota
University of Kentucky
Michigan State University
I'll have to admit, my Dad and I got a good laugh out of Sparty's effort. On the other hand, my wife felt sorry for them. They were clearly the slowest vehicle on the track and were subjected to being passed, numerous times, each lap. Each vehicle has one of those "canned air" airhorns onboard. They're used to let a slower vehicle know that they're about to be overtaken (the rear view is severely limited on most of the vehicles). You could clearly hear Sparty being overtaken, ad nauseum, whether they were in sight or not.
I was curious as to why they were so far behind, with respect to the other cars in the field. I thought better of asking directly, given the fact I was wearing my UM sweatshirt and cap (I didn't want to be subjected to a possible beatdown at the hands of a clandestine Sparty football player). I later found out that their team is very young, this is their four year of existence, and they have a lot of catching up to do.
As previously mentioned, the team will be installing the solar cell array within the next few weeks. I asked Chris if this was normal as I figured it was a little late to be without your solar array. He assured me that everything was on schedule and there was no reason for concern. After install, the team will continue to test and eventually head towards the east coast, terminating in New York City. They plan to meet with alumni groups along the way. Check their site for the planned route. They would love you to get to see the car and meet The Team. Best of luck to Chris, Troy, Jordan and all of UMsolar especially this Fall when they head “down under” to uphold the tradition. Go Blue.
Even the Solar Car has Wings!
See you Down Under!!
All the information in this Diary was gleaned from the UMSolar web site - thanks.
All images are provided by the Author unless otherwise noted.