Friday, December 11, 2009

Devil Marbles

Pete, the safety officer had told us to make sure we stopped by Devil Marbles.It was right off the road and we had gotten ahead of the race car and took a moment to stop. We had fun seeing what we could and playing on the rock and taking picture. Got Annette to pose holding  the rock just right. It a great place to spend stop but we re behind the car now and wouldn't catch up till the end of the day.

We have been traveling in the Northern Territory and were always fascinated by the termite mounds that we drove by. They came in all shapes, sizes and colors.there are 2600 species of termites in the world and Australia has over 350 types in Australia There were just fields of 2' tall slender mound that were 5' on center that looked like.chess pieces. A local tells us that if they get much bigger you need a tractor to knock them over and you can climb all over them with out bothering anything. The large ones are Cathedral that are incredible large and solid. It wasn't easy to climb in shorts but I had to try.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Monday Oct 26th

Morning starts before sunrise with getting the array set up for the morning charge. Breakfast  is laid out with something for everyone. Lunch set up follows with everyone making their own. We hear stories of the last race where they lived on pop tarts and PB & J's. Everyone seems happy to have good food.

The array had to be walked over to the starting point while still being charged. It was a bit tough trying to get 6 engineers to agree on the best way to move the awkward array. We had our 30min stop still to complete so we were 45min behind Team Twente. We reconnected the array to the car and were off.

Sunday Oct 25th

Sunday October 25th everyone is up early. The car needs to be at the city center for the opening ceremonies. It was great fun with the speeches while the band played. The starting flag was waved for each car about 1 min. apart. The cars quickly merged with city traffic leading to the Stewart Hwy.

Annette and I enjoyed the start but left to finish packing the now empty trailer and get checked out of the hotel. It was a lot of work but we finally got on the road two hours behind. We needed to catch up. With pulling a trailer and traffic, we had to put the hammer down.

This is racing and anything can happen and usually right at the start. The Bochum team from Germany was stopped because their lead car was totaled by a rental car being driven by Stanford parents who were following their team.

Michigan State and Tokai University

We went by several teams with flat tires and passed over 30 teams before the end of the day. Finally caught up with Eleanor by 3:30 shortly before getting to our Control stop at Dunmarra.  A Control stop is a required 30 minute rest period. There is one about every 300 km.
We were right behind Team Twente that had arrived 20 min. earlier.

This was a good place to stop. Showers, bathrooms and picnic tables were great for our first night in the outback. A good first day with everybody in great spirits since we were in 5th place with Team Twenty in our sights.

There are 7 teams in the race that have the gallium type array that produce 20% more power than our silicone array.  They are incredibly expensive and only afforded by teams with 7 figure budgets.

Annette made dinner with the team eating in shifts. Some working on the car, others setting the array to catch the last of the days sunshine, while the rest were getting ready for bed. The night sky was incredible but little star gazing was done as sleep comes quickly when tired bodies climb into sleeping bags.

Time Trials

Next event was the time trials that set the starting order. This is an anxious moment for the team. There are vivid memories of watching their car flip over in the last race time trials, 4 years ago. The team walks with the car as it takes it turn on the track.

Eleanor in the corners with the media watching.

 Wisely we finished 14th knowing that it makes little difference in a 3000km race and all the cars will start within 30 min. of each other. All breathed a little easier when Fiona finished her lap.  Good job Fiona.

This is the brake test.

 These are some of the other cars. Very unique designs.

This is Team Twente from Netherlands. This is a very interesting design that has a tilting array and solar concentrating lenses. This was a beautiful car that had a lot of crowd appeal.
Stanford team.

Team from Istanbul

Australian High School Team for gifted students...none of the team members were old enough to drive the car they built.

There was a meeting with all the teams to explain the starting procedure for tomorrows start. We need to be at the starting line at 6am.  They are quite strict on the order and being ready. Any miscues and the team is put at the back of the line.

Road test

By Thursday afternoon the car was ready for the road. We have 4 drivers and they need practice to get accustomed to the Aussie driving. Roads are good but there are no shoulders and driving on the other side of the road while being passed by road trains is unnerving for even an experienced driver. The team needs to practice emergency stops, driver changes and flat tire repairs.
The race needs to have all 4 vehicle working together. The control center is the Chase car that is just behind the solar car. 500 feet in front is Lead that clears traffic and reports any road hazards. Chase protects the rear of the solar car from overtaking traffic and monitors power performance and sets speed controls. Trailer does what ever needs to be done. We are all connected by CB radios and the chatter can become quite hectic at times
The first road test ended when a  problem with the emergency brake.  The disks were replaced that night at the shop and we lost valuable practice time. It was fortunate that this happened before rather than during the race. We learned from several other miscues that allowed us to improve our racing procedures
This is Nuon Solar Team from the Netherlands that was practicing at the same time. They are a well established team and are one of the favorites

Wednesday is scrutineering. Each car is inspected for safety and compliance with the race rules. Drivers are weighed and assigned handicap weights to equalize the drivers.
We had some early excitement when the car was measured and thought to be over length but was okay once the measuring procedure was corrected.
Critical test is that each driver must demonstrate that they can enter and exit in less than 15 seconds.
Every part of the car is checked for compliance with the race rules. This is reviewed beforehand but there is always some confusion over the interpretation of wording or intent of rules. Safety is priority and there isn't any gray area.

The battery pack is removed for close inspection. This will be tagged with a tamper proof lock and inspected at the end of each day of the race. The pack is well designed and generates a lot of interest from the inspection team

Mike, Rachel and I after the car has passed. With great relief the team packs the car back in the trailer and heads back to the track.They still have work to do to get ready for tomorrows road drive. It is late again and Annette and I are heading back to the hotel.

Rachel and Mike and the rest of the team arrived today. This week will be spent getting the car and support vehicles ready. The lead and chase cars need to be rigged with crazy lights, communication and signage. Annette and I are getting the camping gear sorted out and doing the last of the shopping as well as being "go-fers" for the team. Everything seems to take longer since we don't know the area or best place to shop. We are still having trouble with the truck.  After having it in the shop 3 times, we asked for a replacement. They agreed and we realized what a dog of a truck we'd been driving. Now we can drive with air conditioner ON and the heater OFF. Everyone's quite busy getting the last of the details worked out. Need to get the solar car ready to get some practice time on the roads. Drivers and support vehicles need as much time as can be squeezed out in the next few days. Long days, we stop just before the restaurants quit serving dinner. There are a lot of tourists and the bars are open but most of us are too tired to stay up late and besides, there's still work to do before dropping into bed.

First day in darwin

Sunday Oct. 18th. Arrived at the track, about half the teams are here. Met Pete the Safety Officer. We lucked out being able to rent the last 12 passenger van from Thrifty after the car from Budget wasn't what we needed. Got to the hotel which is conveniently located in the middle of town.  Our internet access is limited. This is a problem for us getting our blog updated. We had limited free time and computers were taken up by students who are still in school and working online. Annette even proctored a test for a student. That evening Annette and I went to the Sunset Farmers Market that is next to the public beach.

There were many local artists, street performers, and food vendors. Annette got a great hat and artwork.