Catching Up with UMSolar

Submitted by Bronco648 on July 15th, 2011 at 10:54 AM

It's been some time since we've visited our solar car heroes. Let's catch up and see what's been happening. In an effort not to simply plagiarize their stories, I've edited or truncated them for brevity. I'll provide a link for the full story on the UMSolar site, if you'd like to read more. Also, you can visit the UMSolar Car Store and consume mass quantities.

If you have no plans for the Saturday thru Tuesday (July 16-19, 2011), the team will be 'mock' racing Quantum. Scroll to the bottom portion of this diary for more details (see the July 8, 2011 entry). Their route will almost trace the Lower Peninsula’s outline (they're skipping "the Thumb"). If you happen to see them, voice your support - Go Blue!

May 18, 2011

UMSolar Works with GM to Build Quantum

Read Full Story

During each project the Solar Car team works with leaders in the automotive industry. This ensures that car construction uses the latest technology. Recently, team members visited the GM Tech Center in Warren Michigan. They worked on making fiberglass layups for Quantum’s molds (for the aero body and are used to shape the carbon parts).


Taylor Dodson and Nathan Van Nortwick watch as the fiberglass is cut. It is ready to be placed into the mold for shaping.


Taylor mixes gel coat.


When the mold is ready, the gel coat is applied and provides a very smooth surface.

May 19, 2011

All about Flexloc Nuts

Read Full Story


These small pieces of steel are perhaps one of the most significant components to the car: Flexloc nuts. They eliminate the need for lock washers, resist shock and vibration, and lock by themselves. One nut contains six slots, the cylinder embodying the slots has a diameter that is slightly smaller than the width of the bolt. When threaded on, the expansion causes the nut to lock in place. Quantum currently utilizes more than a hundred Flexlocs in at least five different sizes.



Steering rack rod-end connection; the connection at right is fastened with a Flexloc nut, the fastener at left uses a more traditional safety-wire method. This is the second Solar Car team vehicle that uses this specific hardware for the World Solar Challenge. Flexloc fasteners are required for the American Solar Challenge.

May 25, 2011

Advisers and Spartans

Read Full Story

The team hosted two special visitors on Tuesday, May 25, 2011.

The first was Neil Johnson, an engineer from Ricardo. Neil came by to offer advice regarding the battery and battery protection system. Ricardo has been very generous in offering their technical consulting services to the team, and their assistance has been invaluable in the completion of Quantum.


Neil Johnson from Ricardo consults the team about the battery.

Also at the Wilson Center on Tuesday was James Miller, a Mechanical Engineering Junior at Michigan State University and a member of the MSU Solar Car Team. UMSolar met James at the Formula Sun Grand Prix, where State was racing their first-ever entry. Self-described as “The Little Team that Could” [Ed.: we know them better as “Lil Bro”], MSU completed 207 laps.

James met with members of U-M’s Business and Operations divisions. Afterwards, he spoke at length with other members of the team about mechanical systems and the in-depth process used to make our carbon fiber monocoque shell.


Sparty (James Miller), center, meets with Blaine Riley and Rachel Kramer

Ed.: Before you blow a gasket and accuse Blaine and Rachel of High Treason, consider that the "solar car family" is very tight knit. All teams want to see each other succeed and willingly share information (within reason). I witnessed this myself both at the American Solar Challenge finish line (last Summer) and at the Formula Sun Grand Prix (May, 2011 @ the Indianapolis Motor Speedway).

May 26, 2011

Who is the Director of Engineering?

Read Full Story


Santosh Kumar is a Masters student in aerospace engineering at UM and is originally from Singapore. Beginning as a strategist in 2008, Santosh has made his way into the Engineering Division – where he currently holds the position of Director of Engineering as well as Head Strategist. Hear him talk about his involvement within the Solar Car team and the benefits that result from that:

Video Credit: Evan Dougherty

Jun 9, 2011

The President of Roush Enterprises Meets With the Team

Read Full Story


The team poses with Quantum and Roush President, Doug Smith

The Chief Operating Officer and President of Roush Enterprises, Doug Smith, visited the Wilson Center. Smith shared with the team the culture of their company by saying, “When we run our business we don’t set priorities…we get it all done.” Smith’s discussion about teamwork, leadership, and engineering excellence has inspired the team that we will be able to improve and have a controlled mindset on the competition.

The relationship with Roush has been steadily increasing over the past year. Working with Roush helped cut approximately 200 pounds (Ed.: that's a massive weight reduction!) off Quantum, as well as condensing manufacturing time by two months. It was great to let Smith see how all the support that Roush has provided has helped us greatly.


Santosh Kumar showing Smith the inside of Quantum.


Smith takes a close look at the steering wheel for Quantum.

June 10, 2011

Quantum Photo Shoot

Read Full Story and See More Pictures

The team went to the Big House for some pictures. Martin Vloet has been named University Photographer’s Association Photographer of the Year in both 2006 and 2009 and has won several awards for his amazing photography.

In addition to being photographed by one of the best photographers at the University, it was an honor to just be on the field of the Big House. Engineer Troy Halm stated, “Of all the times being in the stands at the Big House, it was especially amazing to be on the field by the Michigan M – especially with Quantum.”

Strategist David Benson-Putnins added, “It was a great experience going out onto the football field. We got some amazing photos of Quantum at midfield, and the whole team enjoyed trying to make some field goals. Being able to show off the car with a venue as prestigious as the Big House as the backdrop is an impressive thing.”


June 21, 2011

Momentum goes to Ricardo

Read Full Story

Throughout the Quantum build cycle, U-M Solar has been partnering with Ricardo – a major engineering innovation and consulting company – to optimize various in-car systems. As a way of saying “Thank You”, the team recently made a unique installation in their lobby: The 2005 national-champion vehicle, Momentum.


Momentum, our 2005 vehicle, on display in the lobby of Ricardo's Detroit Technical Campus. Momentum and its trophy will be on display at Ricardo through late Summer.

June 22, 2011

CANoe to Victory

Read Full Story


A computer connected to the car to analyze the messages going through it using CANoe at FSGP. Photo Credit: Ryan Mazur

When testing or driving a solar powered vehicle it may be necessary to debug issues. In this case, the car is connected to a computer and a program called CANoe (CAN – Controller Area Network) is started.

CANoe is a type of software that allows all the messages, going through the on-board computers, to be read and to check for errors. The software can also identify problems such as loose wires or an over voltage issue.

July 6, 2011

Anodize to Stylize

Read Full Story


Parts in their original and raw aluminum state, pre-anodized.

On Quantum, a lightweight carbon chassis embodies dozens of intricately machined aluminum parts that makeup the front and rear suspensions. These aluminum pieces require anodizing. The anodizing process receives its name as the part involved in the process forms the anode electrode of an electrical circuit. The current runs through the part while it is suspended in an acidic solution. After this is done, the end result is the part with a hard topcoat (one that is much harder than natural aluminum) that is resistant to corrosion.


Suspension pieces after they have been through the anodizing process. (notice the colors)

July 7, 2011

Race Upper Rolls Out

Read Full Story

When the Solar Car Team builds a new vehicle, it builds two upper surfaces. These are the upper surfaces of the car. One, the “Mock Upper”, is a show piece and is painted nicely for publicity events and preliminary testing (as seen at the FSGP). The other, the “Race Upper”, is covered with solar cells and used in competition.

After several days of affixing the delicate solar cell modules to the top of the carbon fiber surface and wiring them together, the race upper was ready for testing. In anticipation of an upcoming testing date, the team took Quantum outside to let the cells soak up some sun and verify that everything was working.


Engineering Director Santosh Kumar and Electrical Engineer Joe Menzia adjust the Race Upper into position on the Lower Surface of the car.

The test crew wanted to verify that several things were working as designed. First were the Maximum Power Point Trackers. The solar cells can’t be plugged directly into the battery and motor – they have to be regulated and optimized. This is the job of the MPPTs, which are connected on one end to the car’s power grid, and on the other end to the solar cells.


Strategist David Benson-Putnins and Electrical Engineer Aaresh Bilimoria check the telemetry signals and power production coming from Quantum.

Also tested was the telemetry system. All data about Quantum’s performance are relayed to the Chase vehicle so that strategists can make accurate and informed decisions.

July 8, 2011

Mock Race

Read Full Story

With the Win the World campaign launched, the Solar Car Team is now in full swing to prepare for Mock Race. The Mock Race is an approximate four-day journey along the border of Michigan’s lower peninsula – starting July 16, 2011. Mock Race will provide the team with a chance to practice testing on open roads and in a similar fashion to the process of the World Solar Challenge.

For example, during WSC, there are mandatory controls stops that require the team to take a break to rest, swap drivers, charge the car, etc. This means, in order to get the best simulation possible, the team will be temporarily stopping in various cities (marked on this map) that will serve as control stops. Some of the stops featured on the map are night stops, where the team will be able to rest and recharge before another full day of racing. We will also be holding events in a few of the stops that are designated on the map, check back later for finalized details!

View Larger Map

In addition, the team will be able to practice using the various vehicles involved in our caravan such as Lead, Chase, Scout, Media, and Weather. This allows the team to have a full idea of what to expect during the race and how things will operate.

For more information please watch this video made by our Head of New Media and Videographer, Evan Dougherty.

July 12, 2011

Learn about our Caravan: The Weather Vehicle

Read Full Story


The Weather vehicle in action during WSC.

When racing in World Solar Challenge and American Solar Challenge, there are a number of vehicles that work as a team. They’re known as The Caravan. The leader of these vehicles is called the Weather. The Weather vehicle leads with several miles between them and the main caravan (Lead, the solar car, and Chase), and just before our Scout vehicle.

Currently, Weather contains the Project Manager, Rachel Kramer, and Meteorologist, Jordan Feight (it will also carry advisers during the WSC). The primary role of the vehicle is to collect weather data and to relay that information to the strategists. In addition, they are responsible (in conjunction with Scout) to determine the campsite for overnight stops.


Jordan testing the weather equipment.

The meteorologist lets the other members know the current and future weather conditions. Jordan first looks at initial weather conditions and general patterns. Then he reviews predictive weather models, which allows him to analyze the information that he has collected. Clouds, solar radiation, and wind are the biggest factors to consider when looking at the forecast. Thus the reason for the pyranometer (measures solar radiation) and anemometer (measures wind speed) attached to the vehicle.

Clouds are perhaps one of the most difficult items in weather to predict, making it a challenge for Jordan to anticipate conditions. Wind speed is slightly easier to determine – helping the strategists figure out how fast the car should go based on the drag created by wind direction.

July 13, 2011

Learn about our Caravan: The Scout Vehicle

Read Full Story


One of the previous Scout vehicles.

Although there is less scientific data involved with Scout than in Weather, it plays a significant role in ensuring our solar car’s safety.

Chito Garcia, who has driven Scout since the early '90s, will drive the vehicle while Operations Director, Ethan Larder carries out the main responsibilities of the vehicle. The main concern of Scout is to mark hazards that are found within the path of the solar car. During the race, Ethan removes any road kill and marks hazards, such as potholes or blind corners, with spray paint. Additionally, Scout directs the solar car in and out of control stops, makes sure that the Lead vehicle doesn’t need to stop for anything and helps to check the predetermined route so the main caravan (Lead, Chase and Quantum) doesn’t make any wrong turns.


An example of the array charging and being held up by the array stand that the Scout vehicle carries. WSC '09-Infinium.

Scout also has the responsibility to carry the array stand and make sure the campsite is ready once the solar car arrives. Scout works in conjunction with Weather to determine where the team should camp.

July 13, 2011

Making the car lean with TeXtreme

Read Full Story


TeXtreme's checked pattern

One of UMSolar’s major goals is to build a vehicle that is 200 pounds lighter than the previous car, Infinium. One key step to achieve this goal has been through the use of Oxeon’s TeXtreme® Carbon Fiber Weave.

The TeXtreme® weave weighs less than one half the weight of some of the carbon fiber that was used on Infinium (and of previous generation vehicles).


Crew Chief, Gerald Chang works on the dashboard.

Ed.: Thanks for reading (it's long, I know). I'll do my best to provide another update before the World Solar Challenge in late Spetember or early October. Feel free to provide corrections/suggestions in the Comments [I'll be reading them =) ].



July 15th, 2011 at 11:32 AM ^

Shameless plug from an SC alum.  They are currently in the process of an aggressive fundraising campaign - Link Here - called 100 days to win the world.  These guys have built an amazing car, and it sounds like they're just a few modifications from making this thing a championship contender.  They have never won a World Championship, coming in 3rd several times, and will undoubtedly be facing some stiff competition.  Every little bit helps, so feel free to help out if you are in position to do so.  Think of how awesome it would be to see a Michigan team win a WORLD Championship!


July 15th, 2011 at 1:22 PM ^

That link is under the post for the Mock Race. Thanks for re-posting it again. I'm with you, I'm exceptionally proud to be a fan of the University but wiining the WSC would be the Ultimate. At the very least we already know they will represent the University of Michigan very, very well.


July 15th, 2011 at 1:25 PM ^

My bad... I've already read most of these articles so I missed it.  I'm pretty stoked about this year's car.  In the past we've had some great cars, but I think their tendency to be relatively heavy held them back a little bit.  The last two cars, especially Quantum, seem to be heading in the lighter direction.  Not to mention it's sexy as hell. 


July 15th, 2011 at 12:17 PM ^

The technological innovations, processes, etc. are truly amazing given the fact that this is a student run organization.  It really goes to show that Michigan is a globally leading institution in engineering.  Truly impressive and thanks for sharing.  I'm looking forward to the next update!


July 15th, 2011 at 2:29 PM ^

As a kid growing up in A2, I always followed the old SC teams. I thought the stuff was way cool and the A2 News always had articles on the team. This post was awesome, and it also reminded me why I should have been an engineer instead of an accountant.


July 15th, 2011 at 3:30 PM ^

So how much for my own 2012 solar car?

Also, there's a former boyfriend of mine in the group shot. He once backed into my mom's car, so don't let him drive this one!

/heavysarcasm (he's actually a great driver, it was all my mom's fault)



July 16th, 2011 at 8:20 PM ^

My family happened upon the Team at one of their stops today.  The car looks great!

The Team Members took the time to answer MANY questions from my little engineers about the project.  They represented the UM very well, and I am very appreciative of their efforts.  The little ones are still talking about it several hours later.

Well done.


July 17th, 2011 at 9:18 PM ^

I'm furious now! It looks like they went south from Ann Arbor on 12 yesterday towards K-Zoo. If I had decided to go to the family cabin Saturday morning instead of Friday night, I probably would've run smack into them about MIS.