A cool simulation image from the aerodynamics team. Not the best outcome as the car is excessively titled downwards, however the aerodynamics team is currently working on a newer and more accurate simulation!

In the spirit of Pokémon Go, please enjoy this hastily GIMPed (not Photoshopped) animation. Guess we'll have to wait to know if it was super effective or not.

Crunch Time

Shakespeare pun in the title and a Pokémon reference? What an odd juxtaposition. But yes, it's over half way through the summer and just about a month until reality hits us that we've got a class at 8am the next day. Combining this with the fact that some team members on campus are starting to go on short - and well deserved - vacations for varying reasons, there really isn't that much "usable" time left this summer. So we're sort of in a crunch for time in order to get as far as we can on the car, but just as importantly, to produce the things we promised we'd show off at Quad Day in the demonstration area by the MCB building (*nudge nudge* stop by please).

general tl;dr - Team members being on and off campus due to vacations makes things a bit difficult to coordinate and the rush to be ready for Quad Day sets in.

Subteam tl;dr

electrical tl;dr - most efforts are focused on a usable dashboard and subteam leader is out on the American Solar Challenge with his undergraduate alma mater UC Berkeley (@CalSol good luck!)
solar tl;dr - making more solar arrays for testing
aero tl;dr - fixed the problems with the new simulation machines so they're more accurate and are looking into automating the entire simulation process from start to finish
mechanical tl;dr - enjoying some great Flextop locknuts from Locknut Technology, receiving foam molds next week and both the suspension for the mock chassis and wheel steering mechanisms are coming into fruition


There seem to be a lot of different little projects going on, but they mostly all lead to being integrated on the dashboard. Even better is that we're working with greater and greater levels of independence, but are still combining all our results together well! The dashboard represents one of the major milestones since it combines both the electrical and mechanical teams into the same project. And what better a way to learn than interdisciplinary work?

A simple, yet elegant, 3D rendering of what our dashboard and steering wheel might look like some day soon. 
Actual circuitry is (depending on who you ask) not as pretty as a 3D rendering might be, but it sure is useful! The above boards depict the dashboard control, lights, and steering all connected and working together.

The result of trying to fit an electrical team schedule and mechanical team steering wheel design on the same white board.


We've been working on the stylishly named "The 99", a set of solar cells that compose a sub-array of an actual array. "The 99" only accounts for 1/5 of what its full array will be. Unfortunately, making sub-arrays will most likely be the only thing solar will really be doing for a while (as there are a LOT of  them to make), so at the very least, we have a fun time doing it.
How do the pros get so good at soldering? By challenging themselves of course! What's a bigger challenge than soldering on top of packages on top of  a rolling chair in a confined space while wearing an uncomfortable suit?
The squad assembles. Not perfect in rank and file, but close.
Sometimes we have so much fun that we have to take a break.


We switched from compute optimized clusters to memory optimized clusters which solved all of our problems. The memory optimized clusters have been able to handle extremely dense meshes which should be improving our accuracy tremendously. Also, simulations are running in almost no time.
For the future, we'll be focusing on automating this entire process, from mesh to final results. We have a software in mind at the moment that should be able to help us with that. This should free up a ton of time on our small aero team for people to focus on applied aerodynamics instead of the computational side of things.
Besides the stress tests mentioned last time, we also successfully ran a simulation of the vehicle in cross wind. The images below are from this.
As I am a mere writer from the mechanical team, I don't really know what's going on here. I hope to one day, but these are just cool.


We've been anxiously waiting to hear updates about the machining of our foam, and our hopes have been answered. For now, the plugs are scheduled to be completed by next Friday which means we can finally get to work on them again. But in the mean time, we've been working on the mock chassis.
The body is basically done, but that was the easy part. The harder, more involved portion, is the suspension and steering wheel system that, assuming it's done to expectations, will be the same set we'll use in the actual car. So the stakes are high, but so is our enthusiasm and determination. There will be a lot of machining, water jetting, and general building of stuff in the weeks to come. And with the help of the Flextop locknuts from Locknut Technology, we're sure to be safe and secure.

You don't really come to appreciate the magic of machines until you have to drill 48 holes in various metal pieces by turning a drill press. The above is the mounting system for the car's suspension (e.g. wheels).
We've evolved to achieve flight. This means that Houston, we have no problems. When finished, neither the mock chassis nor the car will actually be this high off the ground, but it's good to know we can lift it this high. 

Attempts to finalize the design of the steering system involve a lot of erasing, straight lines, and unfortunately at the time of this picture, question marks, which have since then been unquestioned.
The current plan for the steering system involves various carbon fiber tubes, aluminum universal joints (U-joints), an in-house designed steering wheel with appropriate electronics attached, and, the most legit part of the system, a quick release system used by F1 cars that will allow for the removal of our steering wheel in the event that the driver needs to quickly get out of the car (i.e. emergency).

Thank you again for reading. We hope you've enjoyed it. If anyone reading this is on a team competing in the American Solar Challenge, then we wish you the best of luck! Till next time, enjoy the rest of this waning summer.
The electrical team has the voltage stack monitor boards for the BPS all set. They've been thoroughly debugged and are almost ready to evolve from Rev A to Rev B.

If you thought we'd already given up with regular updates, you'd only be slightly wrong (based on our track record of updates). Also, if you don't get this reference, then find someone who does and they'll tell you what you're missing out on.

Sorry For the Delay and Changes

So much for a weekly post huh? Due to technical difficulties (mostly the lack of internet for a day) and the festivities that accompany the 4th of July, there was no post last week. So at least that missed one is somewhat justified. This post is late just because I forgot and was busy when I remembered I had this responsibility. If it's any consolation, it has been a quiet few weeks that would have made for underwhelming updates if not combined into one. Also, updates will now be published after our weekly Saturday meeting;

general tl;dr - Updates will now be published on Saturdays and we'll try not to miss posts anymore.

Subteam tl;dr

solar array tl;dr - broke some glass, ordered the wrong supplies, moving solar array production into giant oven, but learned a lot and the future is bright.
aero tl;dr - working out the kinks with the new computers but at least the stress tests went flawlessly.
mechanical tl;dr - foam plug machining has been delayed but the mock chassis/go-kart is coming along nicely.
electrical tl;dr - with lots of progress made, especially on coding, we'll be moving forward to making/combining components to make a basic version of the full electrical system to run the motors.

Solar Array

As always, solar's just been up to, well, making solar arrays, this time with some twists. Some of the various layers that enclose the arrays have been changed, for better or worse. Unfortunately, the worse has occurred as we accidentally ordered a top film that was overwhelmingly under sized; basically the thickness of the plastic wrap you use to pack food. Other bad news to follow.
The glass serves as a very smooth and consistent surface to perform the solar array encapsulation on. This is important so that the solar cells are not damaged or warped in any manner that could negatively affect their performance.
We wouldn't recommend attempting this at home as this was performed by professional tinkering students.
While broken glass is dangerous, it can fracture in rather fun and artistic shapes... Such as this pistol-like structure.
For reasons unknown to us (because there are a lot of variables that could have been the cause), the glass we use beneath the solar arrays has shattered... again. Even more unfortunately, this was the first time the glass pictured above had been used. And even sadder than that was the fact that it cost $52. We have therefore decided to ditch the seemingly unpredictable glass for a more reliable polished metal plate. And while none of us have much experience with this, it seems like a more cost and time effective strategy for the long run.
Who knows, if we get good enough, polishing metal might come in handy elsewhere. Might we see a #illinisolarcarsummercarwashfundraiser? (probably not but we can dream).
Here's a small sample of what comes out of the encapsulation process assuming the glass doesn't break or any other things go wrong (even though we did mess up on this one too). We did at least successfully develop a new way of wiring the cells.
The above is a pretty good looking sample. And kind of like the modeling industry, looks mean quite a bit for the cell's performance. The stuff on top film (literally a film on top of everything else) is nice and smooth. EVA (essentially a glue to bind everything together) was also nice, but overflowed quite a bit, making it hard to remove the array from the encapsulation table. Arguably most important however is the fact that these cells are not connected in the traditional manner that would involve soldered wires that run parallel with the height of the picture, but rather at 90 degree angles instead. While we unfortunately don't have a picture for this, just know that it's really important for the success of our car.
Further tests of large arrays will be done in the autoclave, which, for all intents and purposes, is a large, super, industrial oven used for many engineering purposes.
So at least solar array team had one good thing among the series of unfortunate events.


As always, aero team's continuing to run simulations, now using the super awesome and powerful computers discussed in the last team update. Like any new system, from the nationwide healthcare to the local team messaging app, ours has had its problems. But our dedicated members have been working out the kinks with mostly successful results. Also, stress tests on these news systems, which are necessary to ensure that they'll keep up with the vast simulations we'll throw at them, have gone smoothly as well.
Why the Flash? Well a couple of reasons: 1) One of the most powerful heroes in the DC universe 2) It's nice to have a picture to break up the text chunks 3) Bonus points if it's pertinent to anything, which it is as it turns out we have a 4th simulation computer named after this legendary speedster (so let's hope the computer lives up to its namesake).


If you've stuck with us since the first summer update, you'll know that we celebrated the successful shipping of our giant foam blocks to be machined into the shape of the car. It is with deep regrets that we inform you that due to technical difficulties over at the company that's machining the blocks for us, this process has been delayed. But looking at the glass half full, we're hoping for the best when we hear back from them sometime this week on the forecast of our machining. In the mean time, we've been finalizing our plans for the spray booth and oven, and have been making good progress on the creation of parts at the machine shop (now that we've got a member with 24/7 access) and waterjet cutter (now that we've got more members trained to use it).
Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of the actual parts that were created, so here are some good looking scraps. On top of the gear-ish shaped steel, we have an aluminum cake. The waterjet cuts through metal like a knife on warm-ish butter.
On the left you'll see the mock chassis coming into fruition. It's flipped compared to the last time we pictured it as it is now resting how it'll be driven. The driver fits snuggly into the compartment. On the right, you'll see our attempt at supply and work space reorganization (again).
These are not the droids you're looking for.
Definitely nothing suspicious here.


And last but certainly not least, we've got a lot to present from the electrical team. They've been busy and hard at work (as usual) these past couple of weeks, and their results are a testament to their efforts. A lot of time has been spent on the ancillary side of things with some power distribution debugging thrown in there too.

Are those mini-lightsabers? Unfortunately no, we don't have a lightsaber sub-team (yet). This is an example of the lights board and dashboard working together. It's beautiful isn't it?
Apparently videos aren't captionable, so at least it makes for an easier to read description. While short, the video shows the dashboard display counting numbers up. And having all passed kindergarten, we know how exciting and important being able to count is for, well, everything in life.
Viewing the larger picture, CAN, the data network backbone of the car, is now confirmed to be working on at least four boards! On top of all that, because of our continual progress, especially with the coding/debugging side of things, we're able to do some basic control functionality. This means we're now working on the next step of making the electrical system a full system - to spin the motors on the test bench using the Little Battery Box (which represents 1/4 of what the car's full capacity will be) to power them and the dashboard in order to control them.

As always, thank you for your viewership. Like any team, we couldn't be where we are without the support of our sponsors, family, and friends because while we're the brains of the operation, you're all in our hearts while we do it, fueling us on.