How to Start a New TeamEdit

Interest, Money, and Education. If a teams lacks anyone of these components, it will certainly fall apart.

Interest - You or someone you know already has taken on the burden of starting a team and you are looking at this page. Good Job!!!! However, people leading the team must be expected to put in long hours, deal with countless frustrating delays, and balance solar car with various other life activities. Likewise, people joining the team must do the same. The usual story is that a college solar car team will have 20-50 freshman during the first meeting, and as the students realize how much work the project is, it slowly dwindles down to a few who actually enjoy the work involved, the 12-14 hour days in the shop. Anyone starting a solar car team must know how to find this interest and keep it alive, but the most important question is whether or not the head of the team (whether it be a teacher, professor, or student) will constantly take the initiative and deal with the paperwork/fiscal matters needed to keep the team alive. Which brings me to the largest barrier.

Money - The cheapest solar cars will cost 30,000 dollars. Yes, you could go out and buy an actual car with that, but thats no fun. Usually college solar car teams can start by asking their engineering departments for funds, or go straight to the university club funds. After a university/ university affiliate grants the initial funding, teams usually go after corporate sponsors. Usually car related industries or green energy companies are the best targets. After obtaining a grant from a local university, we were able to get funds from Toyota, then from a local car shop, then from a local solar energy company. Acquiring enough funding to do useful work may take years, but if one is constantly reaching out to organizations, and making connections, then the task can be done.

Education - This is not as big of a problem with College teams as much as it is with High School teams, but like stated in the introduction of this wiki, education can be a larger barrier to entering in competition and obtaining funding.

College - Usually universites have Mechanical/Electrical engineering departments that can design frames, suspensions, and battery systems no problem. However, technology with aerodynamics and solar panel configurations is usually more specialized and generally requires years of team testing to start making huge improvments. It is recommended that the Senior/Juniors serves as mentors to the lowerclassmen to keep the team continuing, and teach them all the skills not taught in engineering classes. The team leaders needs to know how to manage project progression/deadlines, and teams should have a group of good public speakers, who can make impressive presenations to prospective sponsors.

High School - High School students usually have little to no experience in design and must obtain a mentor that can guide them in all the fundamentals of design. Students who have grown up repairing cars tend to work best on the mechanical team. The largest barrier to a high school team is that many of the skills necessary to make a good car a simply out of reach for all but the most brightest students. Likewise, you will find many students have nothing to contribute to the projects, and an entire design can rest on one or two students. Teams often skip on giving lessons to members in hopes they learn as the project progresses or simply look up information on their own time. This does teach some students, but not all; despite close deadlines, teams must not be in a such a hurry to make progress on a project and instead allocate time for detailed lessons so ALL interested members can actually make a contribution to the project, versus a few high gifted students.

First Steps of DesignEdit

rough outline, clean up later:

  • Look at old cars (if any). Don't just ask the old members to tell you how to do it; reverse engineer from a clean slate: figure out HOW everything was done and WHY it was done that way.
  • Read the rules. Top to bottom. Everyone on the team.
  • Generating ideas can be tough. Tip: In a big group, throw ideas up on a board: a lot of them. Discuss, but don't reject ideas. Sleep on it. Reconvene at a later time after everyone's had some time to think about them, combine them in different ways, etc.
  • Figuring out initial packaging is the hardest part. People designing chassis and aerodynamics of the car need to work closely together to determine basic shape and various numbers: trike or 4 wheels, wheelbase and track, ground clearance, etc early on.
    • Devise simulations to compare various designs.
    • Once the basic package is defined, people can split off and work on various parts of the car in parallel, and design work can begin in earnest.
  • At some point you have to build it. Early in the project, lay down a date: "By this date, whatever chassis/shell configuration we have, we build". Don't budge when that date arrives. If you try to design the perfect car, you will be designing forever.

Design SpiralEdit