University of Michigan Solar Team Wins Again

By Gertlex at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0,

By Gertlex at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0, Source

  • It’s safe to guess that, for most of us, extracurricular activities in college did not include designing, building or racing vehicles of any type – much less, one of the world’s fastest solar vehicles. For a group of University of Michigan students, it’s their activity of choice. And it’s more than just something that fills their time between exams. With six consecutive national championship wins and five top-three world championship finishes, they are America’s number-one solar car team.



  •  This summer, the University of Michigan Solar Car Team raced as part of the 2016 National Solar Challenge – an eight-day, 1,975-mile road course that traveled through seven states from Brecksville, Ohio, to Hot Springs, South Dakota. The team took first place for the sixth year in a row. They won by a spread of 11 hours.
  • The entirely student-run team is a coming-together of young adults from a multitude of backgrounds and disciplines. Four of the school’s engineering divisions are represented on the team, including mechanical, electrical, aerodynamic and strategy; as are the school’s operations and business divisions.

    Together, they designed and built Aurum – a 500-pound car that features an asymmetrical catamaran body topped with a 1500-watt silicon solar array. It’s designed to be more aerodynamic than any vehicle the team has ever produced – and they’ve been racing cars successfully since 1990. Every aspect of the team’s designs went through countless iterations to produce Aurum – which can be considered a feat of sustainable engineering.

  •  When they’re not studying, designing and racing, the team spends their time inspiring youth in their communities to pursue STEM careers and gain exposure to the engineering field.

    “We do a lot of school visits – bringing Aurum to cafeterias and front lawns, giving kids the chance to get an up close and personal look at what may very well be the future of transportation,” says team lead Shihaab Punia. “They ask great questions about why the car is designed the way it is and how they can get involved in a program like ours. It’s so cool to see that interest start at a young age.”

Perry Benson is the crew chief and was part of the team who built Aurum. He and his teammates used a variety of 3M products as they designed and built the solar car. According to Perry, the chassis and lower are bonded together with 3M adhesives, “so the car is quite literally held together because of 3M.”

  • “From the sanding and gluing to the preparation, assembly and fabrication of the car – even the safety equipment, tools, adhesives and the actual components that go into the car itself, there’s no way on earth we’d be able to make the car even close to rolling and racing on a world-class level without the support of 3M,” says Perry.

  • Next up for the championship team? The 2017 World Solar Challenge in Australia. Our guess is these University of Michigan students will, once more, do their school proud.



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