PrISUm to race through Ames for American Solar Challenge 2014

Harrison March

The ISU solar car team will travel to Texas for the start of its summer season’s biggest competition. However, the team won’t stay there long as the race is set to go through Ames. 

Starting July 21, 2014, in Austin, Texas, the American Solar Challenge will end in the Twin Cities in Minnesota. The race is scheduled to pass through Ames on July 26 and 27.

Iowa State’s team, PrISUm, is confident it can build off of past success and beat out nearly 30 other North American teams to make a run for the challenge’s title.

“We’ve got a great team this year and things are looking promising,” said Dakota Morgan, senior in mechanical engineering, and fabrication and outreach leader for PrISUm. “This year we have a record number of team members, and that gives a really good chance to succeed next summer.”

PrISUm said it has been smooth sailing during the transition between cars, as they are finishing the design phase and beginning the building of Phaeton, the car for the 2014 Solar Challenge.

“[Last year’s car] Hyperion was the first to make it through the whole race with the entire electrical system still functional,” said Todd Wegter, senior in computer engineering and electrical team leader. “We built off that and are expecting big things.”

Last summer, PrISUm’s Hyperion finished in third place at the Formula Sun Grand Prix, a closed course race track in Austin. Next summer, the qualifying laps will be at the same course, boding well for PrISUm.

The race itself, however, will be different as PrISUm works to navigate the more than 1,700 mile highway course from the capital of Texas to the Twin Cities in Minnesota.

“With the [American] Solar Challenge, we’ll have to drive on country highways without a lot of civilian traffic. We can’t use the interstates because the [solar] cars aren’t allowed to break the speed limit” Morgan said, who drove Hyperion the last two years.

This unique test does, however, come with a huge benefit not afforded to PrISUm last summer in the closed course race: the brief stops required by the challenge can be used as time to perform maintenance checks and recharge the vehicle.

“Solar cars will stop in town in the afternoon [of the 26th] and the next day. The stops serve as a chance to recharge the car and do whatever tune-ups are necessary, like changing the tires,” said Logan Scott, senior in computer engineering and PrISUm director.

Though the site for stops in Ames has yet to be announced, based on his past experiences Morgan guesses it will be in the parking lot of the Iowa State Center or Jack Trice Stadium.

PrISUm looks to utilize their “home-road advantage” and carry over their success from last summer in Austin, and as pieces fall into place for the 2014 installment of the American Solar Challenge, they said things are looking bright.

“We haven’t worked out all of the kinks yet,” Scott said. “But I’m confident in our team members and believe they can solve any problem we encounter.”