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A Schulich I team member watches the car in Australia.
courtesy solar car team

Solar car splash down

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After five days, 3,000 kilometres, 50 hours of driving, and zero carbon emissions the University of Calgary solar car team crossed the finish line first out of six Canadian teams, and 12th overall in the Panasonic World Solar Car Challenge Fri., Oct. 26.

Despite mechanical problems that plagued the team before the race, Schulich I managed to beat out all other Canadian teams and place 12 overall, with the University of Toronto trailing just behind them.

"We'd always like to score higher but we did face a huge amount of challenges," said a Schulich I engineer, Joshua Houghton. "I'd say we did really well for essentially a first-time team [facing] new regulations to deal with and a turnover of teammates."

Houghton noted one of the greatest challenges was building a new car with so few members of the original solar car team.

A lack of experienced engineers soon became the least of the team's worries. Mere days before the race started, the car suffered from a major accident that tore the aeroshell from the chassis after the rear tire blew sending the car into a guard rail on the qualifying track. The accident came shortly before the car was due for inspection by race officials to determine if the car would be allowed to take part in the race.

"After the accident, we all sat down and we had a huge brainstorming session to figure out what the best way is that we can fix this and how we were going to proceed," said Cassidy Silbernagel, another solar car engineer. "The tail section we had rebuilt was a combination of everyone's ideas. It worked perfectly for what it was."

Despite this, Silbernagel noted that the car did suffer some detriment, as the rebuilt tail section increased drag, slowing the car down.

The team owed its success to the strong sense of teamwork shared by the crew, noted Silbernagel.

"A lot of teams seemed to be very isolated in their roles, whereas we kind of knew a little bit about everyone else's role, so if we needed to, we could kind of jump in and do it," he said. "The fact that we were able to recover from our accident and be able to not only finish the race but finish in that position is a huge accomplishment."

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