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B-7 attends Canada’s largest solar industry event

On December 8 and December 9, B-7 attended our last event of the year – Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA) Solar Canada Conference 2014, Canada’s largest solar industry event, held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Over the course of the two days, team members had the unique opportunity to network with professionals, stakeholders, and advocates in the solar energy industry. The conference was host to over 200 exhibitors with expertise in energy policy, electricity storage, and various innovative energy solutions. It was a great experience as we learned about a number of existing and emerging solar technologies from across Canada and around the world.

B-7 attracted plenty of interest from conference attendees and other exhibitors who were intent to hear about the project and our success at the 2013 World Solar Challenge. We were thrilled to meet many people who share in our vision for a sustainable future.

Thank you to everyone who stopped by to see B-7 and talk about the project. We’d also like to say a sincere thank you to CanSIA for allowing us to exhibit our solar vehicle!

The team is very busy as construction of our next generation solar vehicle is set to begin in early 2015. However, we will be attending a number of exciting events throughout 2015 so stay tuned!

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As a new recruit, I…

I thought I would stop boasting the team as a team lead… Now let us hear it from a recruit’s perspective. Introducing Faris from our Advancement Team.

Having missed the introductory session where the team leads discussed the fabrication process and the role of each team – aerodynamics, mechanical, electrical, and advancement – in this process, I was worried that I’d be way behind everyone else. Turns out, I was worried for nothing. After a brief explanation of what each team does, I knew that I wanted to be in the Advancement team, which is responsible for getting sponsorships, planning logistics for the race, and getting more exposure for the team.

The recruits, myself included, had workshops to attend, depending on which subteam they are part of. Even Advancement members attended a number of the technical workshops so that they get a better idea of what the production process entails. They were all quite interesting and fun. I even got to put my hand in warm, expanding foam to make a mold out of it.

For people that are in technical subteams, the hands-on experience gained in the aerodynamics, electrical, and mechanical teams is invaluable. But anyone can participate, and that’s what I liked so much about the way recruitment is designed. The BlueSky team educates its recruits, it isn’t expecting experts.

Probably the best aspect of the team for me is that I have opportunities to learn while also doing something palpably productive with the advancement team, all without having to sacrifice too much (at first, I was afraid it would be too big a commitment and had cold feet). I find the fabrication process very interesting and useful on both a personal and professional level, but would rather observe it from a distance. Being knee deep into fabrication isn’t really my thing, but advancement is. It’s also very important work: without money and materials there simply is no car, no team. And without those, there wouldn’t be such a great way to educate students and exploit their potential or raise awareness to the masses about the inevitability of sustainable energy.

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New Recruits Training Program and Fabrication

This September, Blue Sky Solar Racing welcomed its largest group of recruits to date! Over 150 students began their journey with the team. To reciprocate the strong interests from the student body, our team leads have been investing an extensive amount of time to design the content and plan the execution of the training program.

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Aerodynamicist – Arthur Brown

Well, the summer is drawing to a close, and I wanted to take a moment to look at all of the progress we’ve made towards our next car. I’ve been spending almost every evening designing new Pressure Recovery airfoils to extrude into our aerobody shapes. We’ve had the computers running almost 24/7 running CFD analysis on our aerobody designs. The mechanical and electrical systems are being designed, we’ve done layout testing at Bombardier, and we’re learning the fabrication techniques we’ll need to build the car over the next year.

It’s been an amazing experience being part of this design team. Sure, it’s a lot of work it can occasionally be frustrating, but it’s great to actually get to apply the skills I learn in my courses to a practical engineering design problem. We get to use Excel, MATLAB, CATIA, ANSYS and a host of other software tools, and I feel like I am improving as an engineer every day.

It’s also great hanging out with the rest of the team. Last month, twelve of us left for three days, canoe camping in Algonquin Park. That was a much-needed holiday after the months of design work, and we all had a great time.

The fall semester is approaching fast, and we’ll all be buried in work once again. I know the road ahead will be long and hard, but just as the team proved with B7, we’ll get through it with a completed solar car and a trip to Australia. I can’t wait.

Arthur Brown, Aerodynamicist

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Kshitij Gupta – Mechanical Team Lead

“Why make solar cars?” I have asked myself this question after working on the car for nights in a row, after lying to my parents that I’m studying for an exam what I’m actually fabricating the aerobody, after saying ‘No’ to ski trips with friends because it’s a Saturday (official Blue Sky work day), after spending weekends sleeping on a rickety chair for a year as I travelled to the city to work on the car.

Many friends in the solar car fraternity have tried to answer this question. Zhe Gong’s (Blue Sky) and Rachel Abril’s (Stanford) response has been “We do it because it challenging”. I do agree that driving at highway speeds across the continent of Australia using the same power as that of a microwave is challenging…. especially as a student team who designs, builds and races a world class solar car in their free time. This reason usually works as a motivator for most people I interact with. However, a manager in a major automotive OEM once asked me “Why do all this for – To remake a decade old design of an inverted wing with a few solar panels on wheels?”

For starters solar racing has evolved over time with solar cars becoming smaller, lighter and faster pushing the limits of the best technologies around. On a larger scale however I think we do it because it’s unpopular but important. We do it so that the dream of making humans a sustainable species is kept alive. A tangible example of this dream is that of the ongoing “Tesla revolution” which in-part was brought about by solar racing alumnus JB Straubel (Stanford Solar Car Project). Another example is our very own Tom Rodinger who started Nanoleaf and produced the world’s most efficient LED light bulb.

One could argue that the project has achieved its goals with the recent popularisation of electric vehicles. But I beg to differ. As of 2013 electric vehicles sales made for only 0.0006% of total car sales in the world. While another solar racing alumnus Chetan Maini (Michigan Solar car team) has been trying to start an electric revolution in the developing world; the difficult journey of making commercially successful inexpensive, non- luxury, standard electric vehicles still lies ahead.

I believe that solar racing acts as a cradle for forging individuals with mindsets bent on finding solutions to many such global issues pertaining to sustainability. The long, bitter- sweet process of making a world class solar car with limited resources toughens one to face challenges. The strong bonding amongst team members creates a social setting conducive to fearlessly taking on new challenges. While the “Blue Sky Thinking” and the resulting passion for creating a better future prepares one for perseverance.

Sure, the car itself might not be fully practical on its own but the heart of the project: development of individual members poised to make a difference is where its real value lies.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
― Margaret Mead