2017 World Solar Challenge Wrap Up

After a summer filled with hard work, long nights, and testing trips, the whole team was excited to depart to Australia as the long-awaited Bridgestone World Solar Challenge was on the horizon. Our initial race crew arrived in the early days of September in Melbourne to receive Polaris after shipping, and then trailer up to Darwin before the rest of the team arrived. On September 12th, our full race crew landed in Australia, and we were ready to start preparations for testing. Not long after settling in at the Palmerston Senior College we were already hard at work to make sure Polaris was ready for its upcoming roadworthiness inspections. Thanks to the amazing facilities and hospitality we were shown at the school, we were able to adjust to our new schedules and surroundings, which included lots of hot days with temperatures that we were not quite used to in September.

Team mates at testing at Cox Peninsula.

Testing at Cox Peninsula.

After less than 2 weeks we passed our inspections without issue, and were ready to move our testing from airstrips and parking lots to Cox Peninsula. Here we were able to not only see how Polaris performed in the new conditions, but also how the team functioned in standard operations such as pullovers, overtakes, and roadside repairs. These days were very useful in simulating race conditions, and got us all into a race-ready mindset.

Dynamic Scrutineering at Hidden Valley.

Dynamic Scrutineering at Hidden Valley.

Our official licence plate.

Our official licence plate.

The race officially started on Sunday, October 8th, at 8:00AM. We were set to start in the 6th position, and we set out of Darwin under beautiful clear skies and strong sunlight. As expected, the road was very crowded on the first day, as all the teams were pushing to establish their position to start the race. We were fortunate enough to end the day at a public camp site, which helped ease the team into the harsh conditions of the Outback.

On Day 2, we started driving in close proximity with a few other teams and were vying to stay ahead of the pack. We managed to maintain a steady cruising speed for most of the day, and completed our first complete race day without any issues, even getting ahead of two teams thanks to our fast operations at control stops and campsites. As it was Thanksgiving Day, we had a small celebration at night with some local meat pies and music, which helped us all relax from the stresses of the race.

Happy team mates at the campsite.

Happy race crew at our campsite.

On Day 3 we set our sights on Alice Springs, however as soon as the sun started rising we faced heavy cloud cover that reduced the effectiveness of our morning charge. With a careful eye on the batteries, we began the drive at 8:00 AM, and hoped that the weather would improve. As the hours went by without much hope for good sunlight to recharge, we were forced to reduce our speed. Due to the weather conditions, many teams were forced to stop their race, so we had to be careful and optimize our strategy to balance our speed with our remaining battery charge.

After a rainy night, we were woken up early on Day 4 by severe winds and thunderstorms. While the storm was certainly unexpected in the Outback, fortunately we were well prepared, and managed to pack everything up quickly. After waiting in the cars for around an hour, the rain stopped and we prepared to start driving. With our weather reports showing cloud cover for the next few hundred kilometers, we continued the drive at around 50km/h as we passed through Alice Springs.

The team protecting the top areobody under the canopy a from the storm.

Sheltering the top aerobody from the Storm.

Thursday, Day 5, started out looking very similar to the previous days, with very minimal sunlight detectable during our morning charge. However, based on our weather information, we were confident that we would be able to reach clear skies by the early afternoon, and decided to increase speed to escape the cloud cover. By the end of the day we were all relieved to finally be able to witness the weather that we had expected from the Outback, with strong sunlight lasting all the way through the day. We ended the day in the 8th spot, and found a great campsite right next to a few solar panels.

As the sun rose on Day 6, the weather was looking favourable, however we were in extremely close competition with a few of the surrounding teams. We were finally able to push Polaris a little more, and reached our highest speed for the race at around 105km/h! As we neared the end of the day however, we were hit with some very strong winds, including headwinds over 20km/h. This forced us to slow down, as the motor was consuming a lot more power to keep Polaris cruising steadily. We fell back a few places, but were only around 150km away from the finish line.

On Saturday morning, we started our day knowing that it was the last one before the race was over. We were very eager to get on the road and finish the final leg into Adelaide. We hit traffic relatively soon as we neared the city, but were able to successfully complete the race in 11th place! After two years of hard work and determination, we had completed the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, traversing the worst storms the region had seen in over 20 years!

The Blue Sky Team at the finish line in Adelaide.

The Blue Sky Team at the finish line in Adelaide.

Finish line celebrations.

Finish line celebrations.

Now that the team is back in Canada, they are looking ahead to a full team transition. During the next few months the current team leads will help the new team adjust to their roles and make sure they are equipped with the skills and knowledge to design the next solar car, while the new leadership decides which direction they want to take the team. All of this will come together when we create our tenth-generation solar car which we will bring to Australia for the 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge!

Looking back at the race and to the entire cycle, our team has been through laughter, tears, and countless all-nighters. With many new races to look forward to, several members have taken the initiative to get the ball rolling and gather together a whole new group of ambitious individuals for a new adventure. As for the alumni who are graduating or leaving the team, well… the team never leaves them. Together, we are and will always be the Blue Sky family!

Pre-Race Update

In August, our 9th generation solar car was finally unveiled. Polaris will be our team’s race vehicle, representing Canada in the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. Polaris is the fastest, lightest, and most efficient solar car in the team’s history, and has shown promising performances in testing.

Unveiling Polaris

Unveiling Polaris

Polaris features an asymmetrical catamaran design, which was first used by the team in Horizon. While the overall shape of the car is similar, Polaris boasts some exciting new features, such as a fully thermoformed poly-carbonate canopy, a composite roll cage, and a new DC brushless motor. Polaris is also significantly smaller, as the regulations for the 2017 BWSC allow 4m2 of panels as opposed to 6m2.

After the unveiling celebration, the remaining weeks of the summer were spent extensively testing Polaris and training the drivers. The Brantford Airstrip has been an ideal location for our team, and has provided our members with the experience needed for the more rigorous training in Australia. The team has now travelled to Darwin, where we are currently conducting final preparations for the race. With scrutineering starting on October 2nd, the team must make sure that Polaris is in its full race-ready configuration for daily testing. We have been fortunate enough to be hosted by Palmerston Senior College leading up to the race, giving us an excellent work space and environment in this critical time in the cycle.

Workshop at Palmerston

Workshop at Palmerston

Since Monday the 25th, solar car teams have been permitted to drive on public roads on Cox Peninsula. This allows teams to practice their caravan manoeuvres prior to setting off on the Stuart Highway. We have me up with a number of other teams already, and are prepared for some fierce competition at this year’s race.

Starting on October 8th, we will be on the road to complete the over 3000km race route from Darwin to Adelaide. We will be posting updates daily as we travel through the Outback, so stay tuned on our Facebook page to keep up with our team!

Polaris before its first drive on Australian roads

Polaris before the first drive on Australian roads

3D Printing at the Bluewater Technology Access Centre

With the development of technologies such as 3D printing, Blue Sky Solar Racing is always striving to maximize performance. This year we have gotten the chance to learn more about 3D printing technology, how it works, and how we can leverage it appropriately. With the help of the Bluewater Technology Access Centre (BTAC), we were able to explore 3D printing more in depth during this race cycle.

BTAC is located in Sarnia, Ontario, and serves as Lambton College’s frontline for industry innovation and 3D printing. BTAC allows for the design and development of products, parts, or prototypes faster than ever before, thanks to their precision 3D printing technology using selective laser sintering (Formiga 110). They also have an extensive collection of 3D scanning equipment (FARO HD laser scanner, FARO Edge arm and FARO Vantage laser tracker), as well as 3D design capabilities with Solidworks and Spaceclaim software.

For more information on BTAC or their services, please contact Rick Williston, BTAC Project Manager (226-778-0045).
BTAC

OCE Discovery 2017

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Big thanks to Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) Discovery Conference for inviting the Blue Sky Solar Racing team and our 8th generation solar-powered vehicle, Horizon, to exhibit at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre earlier this week! The event was a great opportunity to talk to industry leaders, creators, and fellow students about what we do. We also had an excellent time learning more about other innovative projects, cutting-edge technology, and research in fields like medicine, cleantech, and digital media.

Thanks to everyone that stopped by throughout the two day event! If you have any other questions or want to follow our progress, you can find updates on flickr and facebook, along with pictures from the conference.
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Solar Canada Conference 2016

This past week Blue Sky Solar attended the Solar Canada Conference at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre with our car Horizon. We really enjoyed interacting with industry leaders and learning about innovative solar technologies. Thank you to the event organizers for giving us the opportunity to attend the conference!

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Blue Sky Solar 20th Anniversary Celebration

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On November 18th, Blue Sky Solar Racing celebrated our 20th anniversary at the MaRS Discovery District. The event was a great celebration of 20 years of the innovation and excellence in solar racing that our undergraduate team strives for. Four generations of cars were showcased at the event: Horizon (our 8th generation car that competed and placed 3rd this summer at the American Solar Car Challenge), Cerulean, Azure and B-7.  We would like to thank MaRS for hosting our event, Nanoleaf for providing Aurora panels, our generous sponsors for helping us realize our vision, and the Engineering Society and MBNA, whose contributions made the event possible. Finally, we would like to extend our gratitude to all the alumni and guest speakers that attended, including Thomas Coyle, the Vice-Dean of Engineering, for the faculty’s unwavering support of undergraduate projects like these.