Information on this blog is raw and sometimes unverified reporting straight from the road by teams. The event will issue a media release for any events requiring an official notification.

Note that links in blog entries are not maintained, so while a link may be verified to work on the day of publishing, this is not guaranteed beyond that day.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Leeming SHS: Leeming blogs days 7 and 8

Well Day 7 what a day,

4:30am start for some of us.

Ryan, Andrew, Flegg, Beattie, Morgan, Ryan's Dad and Richard all head of to set the car on the start grid. We aim to be there by 10 to 6 and get there right on time. Our car glides out of the trailer and we push it to thew start grid and wait for the start. We've decided that Tom will start from Darwin.

Drivers are instructed to be at the start by 7:30 and they arrive right on time. A few last minute words to Tom and we wait for our 8:29 start. The rest of the team arrives at 10 to eight to wave us and Willetton off with small West Aussie flags. Darren (from Willetton) Tells me he has a charging problem and they were working on it till late last night that's why they couldn't get in to meet the Minister.

Angela brings the camera to the start line, but forgets the battery so Ms Tauber and her go back to get it. They make it back in time to film our start.

8:29 and Tom rolls off the start line and we cruise through the city and hit the outskirts of town. About five kilometres out of town we pass Michigan, we all gasp. Things don't look good. We find out later that their solar car crashed into the back of their support vehicle which had braked hard to avoid another vehicle. It looks as if Michigan are out! They will be devastated they were two pit bays up from us and spent a lot of time talking to our team. We all feel for them.

We start to get some numbers radioed back from the car and they are looking good low current and the car is cruising about 45km hour. We planned to pace ourselves and hit Hayes Creek hill, will a fullish battery pack. A little later tom radios he's lost power.

We pull over, jiggle a few cables and it starts. Rhys jumps in 5km later same problem. We jiggle again and its starts again another 5 k's we have the same problem. Trent Jumps in and same problem, then an odd one, Trent complains that there is a drop in power and not matter what he does he can't speed up, We start scratching our heads the car is still driving around 45kmh but no more power. Johns Telemetry, now working to an extent says that the bus voltage has dropped to around 60V, then we twig battery has battery has dropped out, we've boofed a fuse so we were running purely solar. 45k's no batts that's a good result.

I write this as I sit in Katherine and I've just had a call that one of the teams just ahead of us may have a part that will help get us going again. I will post this blog incomplete and hopefully update the rest tonight.

John Beattie

Leeming Hammerhead
Leeming SHS Solar Car Team

Leeming SHS Student Blog

Day 7 Sunday 21st

We are finally on the road!

11:30 - At the start of the day, we were very appreciative after last night as the Taiwan Apollo team were kind enough to present us with gifts; including pens, key rings and a model of their solar car embellished in a glass rectangular prism after we offered them some of the left over cake from the minister's dinner. They also offered to make a special meal for Danyal, as we celebrated his birthday (early) yesterday, but we politely refused, as it was a lot of effort to.

This morning at about 4 o'clock, a few students had to get up and take the Solar Car down to Parliament House ready for the official start of the Panasonic World Solar Challenge. On the way, they woke up almost everybody else. Last night, Flegg told us not to wake him up as he was going to set his alarm… Unfortunately, it did not go off. This meant that there was a mad rush to reach the PC in time. Mr Morgan was in charge of taking everyone down there, so there was a lot less shouting.

At 7:47, the remaining students all headed down to Parliament House after them. A few of the students happened to be late, as there was a bit of NTFL on TV (The NT version of WAFL). Apparently, that wasn't a good enough excuse. When we got down to Parliament House, we lined up along the fences and happily supported all of the teams. Since we qualified in 30th place, which meant that we had to start at 8:29. We sat through quite a few cars taking off for Adelaide, including Willetton. We cheered for them, so they in turn cheered for us when the time came for our car to be launched.

There were quite a few comments made on our car and all I could hear were positive ones. I still swear it wasn't due to selective hearing, but I'm being told otherwise. A lot of the negative comments we were apparently receiving, were due to the fact that we had removed the seatbelts on the passenger's side of the car. Sadly, for the whole ride, we will not be running the car with two people in it. This is because it was just too heavy. People are saying that we were not keeping to our word, but even Mr Beattie wasn't very happy with the decision. The other odd comment we received an awful lot, was pointing out the fact that our Solar Car had P Plates on it.

When the car went past, we were without a doubt one of the loudest teams in the competition. This was easily the best moment of the entire trip so far, making us all incredibly proud to be part of the team. It didn't quite cause any tears, but I can easily say we are all saving that for when we arrive in Adelaide.

We also were informed last night, by the Minister of Sustainable Energy, Hon. Francis Logan, that our blog was being followed quite closely by him and several other members of parliament, and that they are going to be reading it out to all the members of parliament whenever he does a speech on Solar Energy. We've been on TV as well, quite a few times. Not long till Laura and I are famous!

So far today at 11:30, we've had a total of 5 stops along the road. We're not very impressed, and neither are any of the teachers or drivers… The good news (if it can be called that), is that a lot of other teams are having problems as well. This has brought me to the conclusion that either we're all making mistakes, or the road is somehow cursed. Or maybe we jinxed it when we said we would absolutely demolish Willetton.
The biggest problem so far, for any team that we know of, is Michigan. Being one of the top three teams, they were expected to be absolutely flying, with minimal problems. Unfortunately, this was not the case. We are not sure what happened, whether it was human or machine at fault, but they had an accident. The Michigan Solar Car ran up the back of its own support vehicle, quite badly damaging the front of the Solar Car. We don't know the aftermath, as this was just what we heard from Tom who was driving at the time, but we're feeling very sympathetic towards them. They helped us a lot and were very nice to us. Michigan are way out our league, so there was no point in hoping to beat them.

8:12pm – We're all huddled around together in the caravan park at Adelaide River, which is all of about 2 hours drive from Darwin. Yes… Not far at all. We're only one third of the way to Katherine, which was supposed to be our first stop. We've had massive troubles since we left Parliament House, mainly due to the motor controller playing up. We have also discovered how annoying Cane Toads can be. We had to shut all our tents so that we did not find any Cane Toad surprises in the sleeping bags when we go to sleep.

At approximately 4:30 this afternoon at the 9th stop on the side of the road, we stopped for about an hour; in this stop we changed the motor tyre and also finally, (after about 45 mins of diagnostics and pulling the $6000 motor controller te pieces)
We found that the fault with the motor controller was due to a small circuit board fracture within the secondary 'driver controls' circuit board which is part of the motor controller circuit.

At the present time Doug (former Sungroper Solar Car Association member and Leeming Hammerhead electronics specialist) is spending his evening with a soldering iron under a 500W floodlight trying to find the exact fault in the controls board.

All in all, we did make some progress, and it is only the first day, so we still have a lot of room for perfection. Even the time it took to set up the tents was pretty long. We will make serious ground tomorrow, and that is a promise that we can keep.

P.S: Angela managed to catch quite a bit of footage of me singing and dancing to Bohemian Rhapsody (and killing it), Teenagers and Take Me Out. I didn't exactly realise that the camera was on. Expect to see this attached to a blog very shortly.

Written by Curtis Brand (Year 11) and Trent Rule (year 12)

Special thanks to Tom Wootton (Year 12), Candace Godley (Year 10) and Gizele Lim (Year 10) for contributing, about the car and the Taiwanese team

Day 8 Monday 21 Oct


Well I wasn't lying yesterday. It's currently 10:40, and we are in Katherine. We have made some serious progress. Only problem, is the fact that the solar car is currently sitting in the back of the trailer and being towed. We've encountered some real problems with our electronics. We're hoping we can fix it.

Unfortunately, and tragically, this means that we are not in a very good position. While we were all expecting tears of joy after reaching Adelaide and being the first Western Australia high school to build and race a Solar Car and make it, we ended up with the complete opposite. We're, literally, not very happy campers, although we're still managing to squeeze out the lame puns. Things have not gone our way and we have well and truly come to terms with that.

We hope to get the car up and running in Alice Springs, hopefully with the assistance of other teams and trips to local electronic shops. We are, however, hoping to beat our old record we set in the Sungroper vehicle in 2005. We managed to do 800km in that. So far, we've only done 114km in the Solar Car, and about 315km in the support vehicles. There are a total of 3021.2km for the entire run. If we can continue with a third of the distance, we will beat our previous record. Hopefully, we can do much better than that.

On another note, last night was quite enjoyable for a lot of people. We stayed at the Adelaide River camping grounds, about 100km South of Darwin. This was a first for a lot of people, including me, who had never ever been camping before in their lives. Laura and Susan prepared dinner, while everyone else that had been in the bus, set up the tents. It turned out to be pretty funny, with tents collapsing with people inside, and people covering doorways with the window on the fly. We did manage to get it done eventually, but we were there for about 2 hours trying.

On top of that, the Cane Toad nuisance became really obvious. A lot of the girls were getting quite scared of the Cane Toads, which became very amusing for the guys. It was sort of an over the top Damsel-in-Distress situation, except the "mighty dragon" was only a few inches high. They got old really quickly though, and the fun drained out of it. Instead we were just walking really carefully the whole night, so as to not step on one and ruin our shoes.

This morning, at the camping grounds, a few people had to get up at about 5:30, so as to be ready by 6, so that we could set up the solar array out front of the Adelaide River Inn. The only problems we had were lack of motivation to wake up that early, and also the cloud cover. We got over the lack of motivation pretty quickly, when we saw Mr Beattie get up, and we realised he hadn't had his coffee yet. The cloud cover, however, took a little longer. Eventually, that did pass, and the batteries started to charge. We just kept two people with the car at all times, to make sure that the batteries did not overheat, to look after the car and to entertain whatever passing people there were… Although that wasn't exactly what we were expecting at first.

Right now, though, Mr Beattie, Flegg and I are sitting in an internet café. Ms Tauber is at the pharmacy, as she wasn't feeling too flash today, which is the main reason we all went ahead in the 100 Series Landcruiser. I've got to say, 130km/h along Stuart Highway is pretty exciting, and it makes 100km/h seem like a school zone. We passed quite a few solar cars on the way, including Chile, Canada and Japan. We had a talk with the Canadian team from Ontario, and they were feeling pretty sorry for us, while we were cheering them on. All the other teams have been very nice to us so far and all Canada did was reinforce that.

There are a few people who were not put on this Earth for camping, and they themselves have realised this already. We'll all help them through it. I've never camped in my life, but I for one, am looking forward to the rest of the trip from Darwin to Adelaide, in the great Panasonic World Solar Challenge.

Written by Curtis Brand (Year 11)

Special thanks to Brendan Flegg (Year 11) for the update on the car.