Engineering students begin solar car project

This year, a group of Bradley electrical and mehcanical engineering students are taking their senior project to an astronomical level by creating solar powered cars.

The team of mechanical engineering students is comprised Aaron Green-Van Zee, Zach Pakula and Kody Downes. Likewise, Josh Strong, Evan Krueger, Jake Ruiz and Caleb Happach serve as the groups electrical engineering students.

The idea was first formed last semester during meetings for senior projects. Pakula and Green-Van Zee completed research and visited solar car teams at other schools in order to begin the endeavor.

The plans for the project currently involve designing and building a solar-powered vehicle that will be capable of driving around campus for use as a proof of concept and marketing, Pakula said. The long-term goal of the project is to compete in a competition known as Formula Sun. Formula Sun is a competition among numerous universities and companies to see who can build the most efficient and reliable solar car.

According to Krueger, a big incentive of the program was getting to design and work on this project first-hand.

I wanted to be part of this team because of the amount of hands-on work that was going to be required, Krueger said. I like the idea of working on a big project and seeing a physical final product in the end.

Before the team can begin to build the car, they must finalize the design and receive all necessary resources. Additionally, the students will be working with green energy technology.

We’re currently in the brainstorm-and-materials-gathering phase, Strong said. Because of the high cost, we’re currently pricing out items and contacting companies to see if they would sponsor us.

In addition to seeking sponsorships, the team created a GoFundMe page to help with payments.

A solar car is an expensive endeavour and cannot be completed solely with the funds available from the engineering college, Pakula said. In addition to the GoFundMe page, our team is also reaching out to corporations to seek both financial and in-kind donations to make this vehicle a reality.

Since the budget for Bradleys team is smaller than most schools, the group said it will not build a complete vehicle from scratch. They hope to reduce the cost by reusing parts.

The opportunity to design and build a solar car will set Bradley apart from similar-sized engineering schools, Pakula said. The solar car challenge is generally reserved for only much larger and wealthier engineering programs. By offering a solar car to Bradley engineering students, and any student who shows interest, [we] will have the opportunity to work hands-on with a project like none other.

However, cost is not the only obstacle the group may need to overcome throughout the process.

I think the biggest challenge with this project is going to be the systems integration, Krueger said. We have to make sure that every system we develop [or] install is compatible with every other system so they can properly communicate. That way, the car will work the way it should.

Anyone interested in helping support the teams efforts can donate to their GoFundMe at www.gofundme.com/bradley-university-2018-solar-car.