SUNY New Paltz Solar Car Race Team poised for American Solar Challenge
RIDING the combination of ingenuity, endurance and speed, the SUNY New Paltz Solar Car Team is hopeful for success in this year’s American Solar Challenge Road Race.
Billed as eight states in eight days, the unique 1,650-mile competition begins today in Rochester before concluding in St. Paul, Minn. on July 21.
“The team is upbeat,” said advisor Mike Otis, a professor in New Paltz’s Electrical and Engineering program.
“We’ve been working very hard for a long time on this car. We have seven New Paltz students with a wide variety of backgrounds in engineering that came together for this.
“My goal is for us to finish every mile and hopefully finish in the top five,” he added.
To compete in this race, teams from all around North America are challenged to design and fabricate their own cars that run completely on solar power.
“It’s a 500-pound car that runs on a motor equivalent to a hair dryer,” Otis said.
The New Paltz team, founded in 2007, is competing in the bi-annual American Solar Challenge for the second time. They finished eighth out of 17 teams in 2010.
They qualified for the American Solar Challenge at this week’s Formula Sun Grand Prix in Monticello.
“The budgets on these cars vary widely by the size of the school,” said advisor Dan Freedman, the college’s Dean of The School of Science and Engineering. “For example, our car was somewhere between $70,000 to $80,000. Continued...
“The team from Michigan’s car was about $2.2 million.”
Otis added the team welcomed that challenge.
“We’re really looking at this as a David vs. Goliath story,” Otis said. “We’re competing against some of the best engineering schools in the country, like Cal-Berkley and MIT.
“I would say Michigan is definitely the team to beat, but after that, I feel like we could compete against any of these teams.”
To build this year’s car, the team took elements of the 2010 car and improved it.
“We’ve been working with Lee Cabe, a retired physics teacher from Newburgh who has vast experience building solar cars,” Freedman said.
“We used his mold to make the shell of the car. There are two big pieces and it really tests your skills in both mechanical and electrical engineering. We have the same basic frame design. We changed things like the wheel, brakes and steering mechanism.
“Safety is the No. 1 concern. Every piece of the car goes through an extensive examination to make sure it’s safe before you’re allowed to put it on the road for the competition.
“The process of building the car from scratch takes a couple of years.”
In the American Solar Challenge, teams are required to use a minimum of two drivers and a maximum of four to drive approximately 150 miles a day. Continued...
“The cars in this race can definitely do the speed limit (of 65 miles-per-hour) if not more,” Otis said.
Otis said New Paltz plans to use three drivers in Luke Stover from Middletown, Julian de la Rua from Argentina and Colin Morrell from Huntington Station. Stover was a member of the 2010 team.
Others on the team include: Andre Candido from New Rochelle; Kira Cozzolino from New Paltz; and Ray Williams of Kerhonkson.
“Our car is a lot better than the one we used in 2010 and that will make us much more competitive this year,” Otis said.
“We’re excited about this year’s race,” Freedman added.
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