Solar racing, a warming organization

Photo courtesy of Reid Kersey

As calm as campus seems over the summer, there is certainly a lot more going on than meets the eye. Georgia Tech Solar Racing is a shining example of the hidden hustle and bustle on campus.

“This is something I do instead of just playing video games,” said third-year ME Josh Preissle, Solar Racing Mechanical Lead. “It’s fun, I’m here with my friends, and we’re making something really cool.” Preissle gave a tour of the shop off of Fourteenth Street, and pointed out the machine shop with state of the art equipment. “One of the best parts of the shop is that everyone in here is a car person, across all of the racing teams at Tech,” Preissle said. The shop is shared between GT Motorsports, Ecocar, Wreck Racing, GT Offroad, and HyTech, and was busy even in dead week over summer.

“People here are friendly and will help you learn things that you wouldn’t learn in class, while making friends. I’d say I met my best friends in the world here.” Preissle said.

He and other students have experienced benefits as a result of their participation on the Solar Racers team. “Many teammates, myself included, have been able to work at their dream companies in fields including medical devices, business, computer science, and, of course, automotive. On top of that, my experience let me be highly effective on day one in a challenging and rewarding career.”

The team is participating in a competition in Austin, Texas within the week. According to the team, the competition is to drive straight, including a section up an incline (about the same pitch as ‘Freshman Hill’.) A few members of the team described that much of their work is in optimizations to parts to increase not MPG like would the case in a more traditional car, but rather to increase the cruising speed without drawing from the batteries.

“The coolest part of this is the materials,” Preissle said. “We get the same carbon fiber used on professional aircraft, the highest grade aluminium, and learn pretty in-demand techniques on how to use them effectively.”

The motor is about 97 percent efficient, in comparison to car engines which are at most 30 percent efficient. “This competition is made so that this stuff can be the future; we’re working out the problems so that they’re solved when the cost comes down and solar cars become the norm.”

In 2008, the team’s original task was to convert a gas powered car into a solar one; they chose an Audi TT to become the only solar racing team in the southeast at the time. They point to the experience of building this car as the catalyst for building a solar car from scratch, the “Endeavour,” as they call it.

Now, in 2015, they are working fast on a new and more efficient car, temporarily dubbed “SR2.” SR2 is intended to be less than half the weight of Endeavour, use kevlar and other high grade materials, and to have more efficient solar panels. The SR1 is a big project; thus, this new project provides lots of opportunities to the team.

Not only are freshmen and sophomores heavily involved, but that they often are approached with internship or co-op offers that they otherwise wouldn’t have gotten without the experiences Solar Racing provided them.

The Solar Racing team is split into Mechanical, Electrical, and Business groups, each of which accepts new students, which Preissle highly recommended to any students, incoming or otherwise. “We’re excited about the competition, and we want to share our passion, skills, and experience with everyone.” The team encourages anyone who is passionate about advancing vehicle technology to consider joining the team.