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!

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Horizon places 12th overall at WSC2015

After battling sandstorms, bushfires and strong headwinds, Horizon successfully completed the 3,000km journey across the Australian outback! The official time of 47hrs 39mins and 39secs places us 12th overall.

Thank you to all our sponsors, supporters and all those who helped us along the way! This would not have been possible without you.

Official results: http://www.worldsolarchallenge.org/dashboard/timing?day=
Photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/blueskysolar/sets

 

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Testing on Cox Peninsula

Last week, Horizon passed the inspection by the Northern Territory Road Authority which means we were cleared to test on the highway along Cox Peninsula. It is the only public highway in the Northern Territory that solar cars are permitted to drive on.

Each day, we wake up at 6am to the sound of Amy Winehouse’s rendition of Valerie as our alarm clock. After a quick breakfast, we have our team meeting at 7am where we go through the plan for the day. We then put Horizon into the trailer and head out to Cox Peninsula, a 30-minute drive from our accommodations in Palmerston. Once we arrive at the starting point of our testing route, we perform a thorough check of each system in the car down to the very last bolt. When all is clear, we begin driving in caravan formation with the Lead vehicle out in front followed by the solar car and the Chase bringing up the rear.

Testing on the Australian roads is important because it gives us a chance to characterize the performance of the car to better understand the power consumption. It is also an opportunity for the drivers to become more familiar with the various sounds of the car so that during the race they are able to immediately identify anything that may be out of place. Lastly, we practice various procedures that may be needed during the race such as emergency pullovers, tire changes etc.

Next week we will be at the Hidden Valley racetrack for scrutineering. Only 10 days until the start of the 2015 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge! Follow our social media for the latest news and check out our Flickr for all the photos.

Inspection by Northern Territory Road Authority

Inspection by Northern Territory Road Authority

 

Road-side Pullover

Horizon driving along Cox Peninsula

Kangaroo crossing sign along Stuart Highway

Race Update 1

We’ve been a little quiet but very busy! Here are some updates on what we’ve been up to:

September 15 – Horizon departs Toronto for Adelaide via airfreight

Shipping a solar car, tools, and equipment is a big challenge. The shipment crate is custom made and we spend many hours packing and securing the car down to make sure it will survive the 18,000km journey from Toronto to New York, New York to Sydney, and finally Sydney to Adelaide! 

The custom crate that carries the solar car and equipment from Canada to Australia
The custom crate that carries the solar car and equipment from Canada to Australia

September 21 – Advance crew arrives in Adelaide

Four team members, what we like to call the 'advance crew', travelled to Adelaide to sort out some race logistics. The goal was to pick up Horizon and our equipment as well as the rental cars that will act as the support vehicles for the solar car during the race. We also had the opportunity to explore the city. We walked around Victoria Park and even visited the beautiful Brighton beach. Thank you to Brighton Secondary School for providing us with accommodations while in Adelaide!

Brighton beach in Adelaide, SA

Brighton beach in Adelaide, SA

September 24 – Advance crew picks up Horizon and equipment and departs for Darwin

On Sept 24. morning, we arrived at the Adelaide warehouse of CEVA Logistics, the company that managed the transport of our crate from Canada to Australia, and saw Horizon for the first time in a few weeks. We were excited but nervous as the crate was undergoing a quarantine inspection where the authorities checked our tools, equipment, and the car for any organic material. Thankfully, there were no major issues and the car was quickly released to us. We then began our drive up to Darwin. Along the way, we surveyed the race route making note of things like good camping spots, cattle grids, and roadwork. We even saw some kangaroos!

Kangaroo crossing sign along Stuart Highway

September 27 – Race crew assembles in Darwin

After over 30 hours of travelling, the rest of the crew arrived in Darwin. We were very happy to have everyone together. We immediately unpacked our equipment and set up shop so we could begin work on getting Horizon into race condition. Before we can drive on Australian roads, Horizon must be inspected by the Northern Territory Road Authority. Once this is complete, we will start testing.

We'd like to thank Palmerston Senior College for providing us with accommodations and a work space while in Darwin!

Only 18 days until the start of the race... Stay tuned for more!

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First team meeting in Australia

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New Year, New Team Updates!

Drumroll… We have officially begun fabrication!

As of today, we are officially one week into fabrication! Over the past week, we were fortunate to be able to use the work space provided by Niagara Pattern to assemble the plug layout for our top aerobody. Our plug pattern consists of stacked MDF sheets supported by a plywood base, both were generously donated by Weston Premium Woods.

During this process, we were reminded again what a tremendously difficult task it is to complete a solar vehicle as we encountered numerous problems with material acquisition, faulty tolerances and logistics. We truly developed an appreciation for the manufacturing limitations on design as well as the power of meticulous planning.

And now let’s end with this photo to lighten up the mood.

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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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