MIT’s photo voltaic automobile group wins 2022 American Photo voltaic Problem for the second yr in a row | MIT Information

August 25, 2022

Many really feel a elevate when the solar comes out, however most gained’t get away in track and dance — except, after all, they’re on MIT’s Photo voltaic Electrical Car Crew. 

The group relied on one hundred pc photo voltaic vitality to energy their hand-built automobile, Nimbus, for 1,940 miles, taking first place on the American Photo voltaic Problem for the second yr in a row within the Single Occupant Car class. 

“We have been somewhat nervous about how this race was going to go as a result of final yr was fairly tough,” SEVT captain and MIT senior Cameron Kokesh shares. “This yr we deliberate extra selections forward of time and it was way more satisfying.”

To qualify for The American Photo voltaic Problem, groups undergo a rigorous week of challenges known as “scrutineering” and the Formulation Solar Grand Prix, a three-day observe race. These occasions be sure that groups can safely full the eight-day trek from Independence, Missouri to Twin Falls, Idaho. Not having fun with the predictability of the observe, groups should take care of modifications in elevation, street circumstances, and driving legal guidelines. 

In typical MIT vogue, the SEVT technique group designed software program to measure these variables and decide the perfect velocity to journey. “The latest iteration took all of final yr to develop,” technique lead MIT junior Stephen Campbell says. “Our philosophy with the brand new model was to develop instruments to help the individuals making strategic calls. This proved to be fairly versatile throughout the race, permitting us to adapt our goal speeds primarily based on our distance targets and the altering climate circumstances.” The technique group drove alongside Nimbus in a chase automobile, calling out goal speeds each time the software program downloaded new knowledge. 

The technique group made each determination in secret, as a result of if different groups overheard their plans, they might modify their very own plans to get forward.

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“They wouldn’t even inform me how a lot cost their battery had,” says Patrick McAtamney, the Edgerton Middle technical teacher and store supervisor. “Stephen’s mother and father have been tenting out with us, and he wouldn’t inform them both!”

“Perhaps we took it somewhat overboard with the secrecy,” Stephen laughs. “We’d flip the field over so different groups couldn’t see the quantity on it. If you know the way a lot battery the opposite groups have, you may make selections primarily based on that.”

Surviving the warmth 

This yr’s race befell throughout a warmth wave, with many 100-degree days. To carry out at their greatest and keep away from accidents, the group needed to monitor each other’s hydration, sleep, stress stage, and temperature. 

“On the primary night time we arrived on the observe in Kansas, there was an infinite rush to get the automobile prepared for inspection the subsequent morning, and {the electrical} group needed to keep up and work for the complete night time,” sophomore Vice Captain Maria Aguiar says. “The subsequent morning, the remainder of the group insisted that these individuals sleep throughout the busy day to recuperate, even when they stated they might proceed working that day.”

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“Any time that appeared to be misplaced resting in air con or sleeping extra was actually outweighed by the clearer minds and effectivity we had throughout the extra intense conditions,” Aguiar explains. “Nobody ever glorified a sleepless night time or urged an exhausted teammate to maintain working. A member may speak in confidence to anybody, and assist would come instantly. This stage of selflessness from the group was one thing magical.”

Regardless of the stress of the warmth and the race, the group made positive everybody stored their spirits excessive and had enjoyable. They loved composing songs and singing them for different groups. They sang a parody of “California Ladies” to the College of California at Berkley group, which led to immediate friendship. “We turned greatest mates with so many groups,” Aguiar recounts. In addition they made a photo voltaic automobile theme track and sang it to the race officers. 

Right here comes the solar

On day six of eight, SEVT camped in a single day between the border indicators of Wyoming and Idaho after finishing an additional loop. Principia School, camped just some yards away, was in a detailed second to their first. However with a cloudy forecast, a 4 % cost on their automobile battery, and a 7,412-foot climb up South Go forward, they feared they could lose all of it. 

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“We have been actually involved we wouldn’t have the ability to make it,” says Campbell. Campbell and the remainder of the technique group anxiously refreshed their climate apps, hoping for some excellent news.

“All of us knew that the top of the race could be decided by the subsequent few actions we took,” says Kokesh.

The subsequent day they have been allowed to depart at 9 a.m. “We determined to cost our automobile till 10:30 and Principia left round 9:15 to attempt to get some miles forward. It had been cloudy all night time. A couple of minutes after Principia left, the solar got here out. We have been capable of put our array going through instantly into the solar and get the cost we would have liked to climb the mountain. We have been capable of make it to the subsequent checkpoint driving at 30-40 mph your entire method there,” Campbell says. 

SEVT gained with a 73.4-mile lead. They have been additionally acknowledged with the Battery Pack Award and Sportsmanship Award.