Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

University of Michigan's Sunrayce Strategy Is Enhanced by PCs Linked to Satellites

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

University of Michigan's Sunrayce Strategy Is Enhanced by PCs Linked to Satellites

Article excerpt

To most people, rain in the morning means a slight nuisance and, at most, an extended commute. Fortunately, their vehicles power right along, sipping fuel much like their occupants sip their morning coffee.

To the participants of the biannual solar car Sunrayce, however, rain in the morning, or even clouds, could spell disaster. Without the sun to charge the cars, batteries, the entire nation-spanning race can come to a grinding halt.

Much like ancient sun worshippers, the race's participants revere, praise, curse and talk to the sun, hoping for just a few more days, or even hours, of sunlight. Into this atmosphere of total weather dependence stepped University of Michigan's Solar Car Team and took the checkered flag for the first two races ('90 and '93). They might have repeated their victory this past year ('95) but were experiencing some teething problems with their solar car and withdrew due to safety concerns.

How can a team dominate in an event that didn't even exist prior to 1990? Steve McGillivary, Solar Car Team Design Director, attributes their success to innovation and dedication.

* Technical Innovation

Like all the universities participating in Sunrayce, University of Michigan devises unique solutions to the mechanical, technical and logistical problems of traveling 1,100 miles over seven days in a vehicle relying solely on the . whims of the weather.

The Solar Car Team used a Dell Latitude XP i486 100MHZ DualScan color-portable to perform various testing and diagnostic functions, including interfacing with a Fluke Hydra Logger data acquisition system to test and optimize the car's solar array. The laptop helped the team find bad cells in the array and correct them, giving the team an array capable of producing over 1,400 watts peak power.

While racing, the laptop was used to monitor vehicle information telemetered from the race car; the color display produced clear and immediately recognizable graphs of information such as the car's speed, battery voltage, motor temperature and throttle position.

The laptop also had pre-loaded course information, enabling the race strategists to give precise instructions to the race car drivers. …

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