28th of October – Blog from the Bus
29th October – Blorg
The Challenge: Design and build a car capable of crossing the vast and imposing continent of Australia using only sunlight as fuel and to prove it, in the spirit of friendly competition against others with the same goal. This BLOG updates as teams publish their contributions around the world.
28th of October – Blog from the Bus
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
27/10/09 Student Blawg
Today was the team's third day on the road. We left Renner Springs at about 8:25 am with the solar car in the trailer. The solar car stayed in its trailer for most of this long stage due to setbacks caused by a dust storm and empty batteries.
There were a lot of interesting landmarks in today's drive, including the Devils Marbles (an interesting rock formation) and Wycliffe Well, apparently visited by aliens. The town seemed obsessed, with extra terrestrial paraphernalia strewn around the caravan park. At the Barrow Creek pub, we saw the local's and visitor's custom of writing messages on money and then sticking them to the wall.
We took the car out of the trailer at 65 kilometres from Alice Springs and drove the rest of the way up and down undulating hills. We reached the highest point of the whole trip (730 metres above sea level) and after navigating through a ridiculously complicated leg through Alice Springs, we reached today's control point, the Crowne Plaza. The support vehicles split into two teams; one stayed and recharged the batteries and the other went shopping, while the bus came to Macdonnell range caravan park and set up "camp" (dorms tonight, but we need to remember that it's all thanks to the people that set up Beattie and Morgan's tent the previous night *wink, wink* Jeandre', Ellie and Roxanne). To the delight of some of the team members, there is an abnormally large jumping castle, as well as a pool table for the less energetic types.
Tomorrow we will continue south towards Coober Pedy. We hope to reach it by 10 am on Thursday. 687 kilometres in 11 hours can't be that hard, can it?
- The Team
Before dawn, the solar car gets trailered to the supreme court car park. Later, I and the other drivers join it. We're in a regular car parking bay, with Willetton on the side closer to the start line, and Cambridge on the other side.
The telemetry (heads!) works. I zero out the telemetry numbers.
Everybody stands around for a while. Members of the public mill around too. Peter Schloite comes through and shepherds everyone off.
I go to the follow car where I plug the telemetry laptop in to power. The power is a home-made 3-way cigarette lighter splitter. Unbeknown to us, the plug on it that plugs into the car socket has a 3 Amp fuse. John turns the key. The laptop beeps: it has power. The laptop beeps again: it has lost power. The fuse has blown.
Last year, cars left the start line at one minute intervals. This year, we've been hearing rumours of two minute intervals. In fact it turns out to be about 30 second intervals. Solar cars are coming off the line and being joined by their lead and follow vehicles, causing a non-trivial quantity of traffic. We wind up waiting several cycles of the lights to turn right onto Daly Street. Daly Street becomes Stuart Highway, and we're away.
Several hours out, the motor suddenly stops pushing the car. We don't know why. We pull up on the side of the highway and give it a look. I put the pyrometer on the motor to measure its temperature: it's at 146 degrees. That's at least 20 degrees hotter than we've ever had it.
There's a certain temperature above which the magnets in the motor stop being magnets, and the motor therefore stops being a motor.
I spray water on it.
We mark our point on the road, put the solar car on a tow rope, and tow forward to a side road.
A Kormilda car shows up. We send them shopping for the fuse we need.
I spray more water on it.
It turns out that our motor has a thermal cut-out. This is designed to prevent the motor from getting hot enough to demagnetise. We didn't know this motor had one. Eventually it trips back in, and the motor runs again.
But the motor has a large thermal mass and is surrounded by an insulating epoxy, so it only cools very slowly; and it is all too willing to heat up again. It cuts out twice more during the day. We become adept at pulling over before it cuts out, and spraying water on it.
We trailer forward to the control stop at Katherine, and end the day there. We have solared 181 km for the day.
Dawn patrol take the car back to the control stop to charge. We join it before 8am, and solar out of Katherine.
One of the many oddities of our telemetry (heads!) is that the motor controller's opinion of the bus voltage as displayed in the car is correct, but as displayed on the telemetry PC in the follow car it's wrong. As we solar, I install Visual Basic so that I can edit the telemetry software.
Just short of Mataranka, the car runs slower and slower: the battery pack is flat. We pull over to charge.
As the battery pack rises back towards its nominal flat voltage, I can compare the voltage displayed in the car with the telemetry number. It turns out that it's too big by a factor of exactly 3.6.
After a couple of hours of charge, we solar on. After 163 km solared for the day, it's time to trailer forward to Dunmurra, to get there before control stop closes. Every other tail end team is there, too. The Challenge is now much shorter than it used to be, and control stops close correspondingly earlier. So the entire trailer pack (all those cars that have been forced to trailer to make a control stop) are very bunched up.
At the control stop we talk to a northbound trucker, who tells us of a large dust storm to the south. We trailer forward to Renner Springs. Again, every other team has the same plan, so six solar cars camp together. The setting sun is dimmer than a full moon would be under a clear sky.
The dust clears a little during the first half of the night, but then the wind picks up, the tents blow around, and a slow rain of grass and leaf shards fall in through the vent at the top of my tent.
We charge under a dusty sky, trailer forward to the Tennant Creek control stop, serve our half hour, then trailer forward to just short of Alice Springs. Australia (or at least Australia as cross-sectioned along the Stuart Highway) is shaped approximately like a peaked roof: uphill the first half, downhill the second half. Just short of Alice Springs is where it turns the corner.
We set down 65 km from Alice, solar past the Tropic of Capricorn, past a marker declaring this to be the highest point on the Stuart highway, and on downhill.
The car pulls more amps than we'd like. The battery, therefore, runs flat faster than we'd like.
The Alice Springs control point has moved (again). This time it's in a hotel well off the highway. There are directions in the route notes, but they are not entirely obsessively complete, and so following them while our battery dips lower and lower is rather stressful.
Nevertheless, we find the control stop and check in, at 18 minutes to 5. That means we'll have to serve another 12 minutes tomorrow. At dusk we put the car in the trailer and go to the MacDonnell Ranges caravan park for the evening.
-- Doug Burbidge http://dougburbidge.com/
Up early sundy 4:30am
The car needs to be on the grid between 5:30 and 6:30.
From Past experience we have learned it is best to get there early otherwise it is bedlam.
We are first on the grid we sit and wait.
8:39 we leave Darwin city traffic is horrible we sit on mitchell st for 10 mins before we get on to the Stuart Highway.
For 40 km all is well with onlookers cheering as we pass. We also pass several cars who have already had problems. Then our car stops. It is hot i mean the temperature is hot the car is hot and the motor is very hot. For a moment I fear that this is our race. we summise that the motor has overheated and I cling to the vain hope that as Doug has suggested the motor has an inbuilt Thermal cut out. after about 10 min the motor spins up. My heart starts again.
We are now aware that we are suffering from a motor that is getting way too hot. so we can now work around this . We ar pushing into a very strong head wind and the car is struggling so are other teams. At every stop we cool the motor with a water spray and keep the motor fan running. We have decided that we can't make Hayes Creek hill but we can beat last times day one record beyond Adelaide River.
During the day the motor cuts out twice more and we end up with 181 solar km and 137 trailered.
We make Katherine by trailer and there are about ten teams here, many have done less that us a Canadian team has only done 51km's. We hear tha Aurora have had a blow out and this resulted in them having to repair their car and restart at Katherine. Tokai Uni [Editor: That is Umicar Inspire from Umicore, Belgium] is out having been pushed off the road by a huge gust of wind, and the resulting crash has destroyed there car. The driver is fine.
We will start at 8 while it is cool and there is no wind. We think we have 3/4 in our batteries this is a guestimate.
5 to 8 off we go stay tuned.
Leeming Solar Car team.
Friday and Saturday Oct 23 and 24.
The last two days have seemed to Blur into one .
We finish rebuilding the battery pack and in a couple of hours we are ready to do some laps.
Tom laps and on his second lap after being baulked by another solar car travelling slower than him he slows and the car stops. We have to tow back down the drag strip and across the track at the end of the pit lane. Peter S helps us by clearing the track so we can cross.
We find the problem, an Anderson connector that has not been pushed in firmly has worked its way loose with vibration. Phew and easy fix. We do some more laps, we are happy with the car's performance and we set up ready to go tomorrow.
Sat. Tom, Doug and I get to the track around 7:30 the other drivers arrive at 5 to 8 and we go to the driver briefing. 8:45 Peter S walks past I say we are ready. He says get your driver in and go, we do.
We sit at the end of the pit lane waiting for our partnered car but it doesn't show so Trent ends up going round the track by himself. Leeming is first on the track and Leeming is the first car to Qualify and be registered for the World Solar Challenge. For the rest of the day we charge the batteries and pack up.
During the day Aurora posted the fasted lap and whilst trying to beat them Unicore from Belgium slides their car off the track and breaks the front suspension. We hear later in the day that they fix their car but have another crash trying to beat Aurora's time. This is rumour passed on by the Nuna team. We will confirm this morning on the grid.
It is currently 5:00am many team support crews staying here have already left we will take the car to the start grid at 5:30am.
Adelaide here we come.
The day starts at the track.
Today is track testing: each car must run a timed lap; then pass a steering test and a braking test, both at 35 km/h.
Peter Schloite runs a meeting for captains and drivers in which he explains how the whole day will work: cars will go out in pairs onto the track: either a pair of fast cars, or a pair of slow cars. Then we adjourn back to our respective pits.
I fire up the telemetry system. It (flip a coin...) works.
John lets Peter know that our car is ready to go. Since Peter can't find any other cars that are ready to go, he sends our car out first, by itself. We do our timed lap, and post 3'14". Then our car pulls into the drag strip to do the steering and braking tests. The only thing we do wrong is that we do them at faster than the mandated 35 km/h. But it's still a pass.
We are qualified. No other cars are yet qualified.
For a few minutes, we are winning the World Solar Challenge.
Then Nuna and Aurora go out on the track, and also qualify, beating our lap time by a large margin. Aurora post 1'53", with Nuna about a second behind them. (For comparison, V8 supercars do this track in about 1'09".)
Willetton's Sungroper qualifies 0.68 seconds faster than us.
I download 200 megabytes of stuff that John Treen has suggested will help with the telemetry. I also field some phone calls from my boss, who is a few hundred kilometres away in the Timor Sea, setting up some equipment on a floating oil production and storage facility.
We go to the briefing meeting at the showgrounds, where we meet our observer for tomorrow morning. Then we return to the pits, clean the array, pack the contents of the pit (including the car) into trailers and vehicles, and retire to the accommodation.
Tomorrow we begin the World Solar Challenge.
-- Doug Burbidge http://dougburbidge.com/
The team is getting used to early starts whether they like it or not, and the last two days were no exception. Thursday was scrutineering day and the team was awake at the crack of dawn to collect the car and bring it to the Darwin showgrounds. That's a bit of a lie, actually. We were told to get up at the crack of dawn, and did, but found that only a few of us would be needed, while the rest stayed back at the hotel and complained that we could have slept in.
Anyway, the scrutineering process is where teams hoping to compete in the Global Green Challenge bring their cars to be put under intense scrutiny by collections of officials. These officials ensure that the vehicles are in compliance with the long list of rules and regulations for as fair and safe a competition as possible. For example, the size of the array is measured to ensure it does not exceed six square metres, the electrical system is checked to make sure it can be turned off quickly in an emergency, and the battery boxes have very technical cable ties and string put through them, which will be checked in Adelaide to prevent any ideas we might get of tampering with the batteries.
The whole process took a few hours and at the end, Hammerhead fell largely in line with the rulebook. The only faults the scrutineers found were with the brake lines coming into contact with the body, solved with a few cable ties, and the batteries which could not be isolated (turned off) by the driver. The officials recommended we install a battery contactor, a very expensive, complicated and difficult to install piece of equipment, not to mention that there are hardly any available in Darwin that will work on the DC current our car uses.
Mr. Beattie, Mr. Morgan and Doug spent a few hours running around Darwin's industrial area looking for one of these devices, fruitlessly. Mr. Morgan then piped up with the idea of attaching a bit of rope to two circuit breakers that the driver can pull in an emergency. We are going ahead with this plan, and will justify our decision with the K.I.S.S. principle when we show the scrutineers again.
Meanwhile at Hidden Valley, more adjustments are made to bring the car up to standard and make sure all components are properly lubricated and working as they should. The temperature is a hot and humid 36 degrees (as usual), but thankfully an afternoon breeze had come to relieve us. Clearly more teams had problems at scrutineering, since more and more teams returned to Hidden Valley. The highlight of the afternoon was rival team Willetton Senior High School arriving at the track (finally) and doing laps only half an hour after arriving. Their car looks very simple, a few extremely heavy solar panels attached to a chassis I guess they've stuck to the K.I.S.S principle too.
- The Team
Yesterday was scrutineering.
We rocked up somewhat before our appointed time at the Darwin showgrounds, some of us coming straight from our accommodation; some of us detouring to Hidden Valley to pick up the solar car. We all register, our drivers weigh in, and we are given ballast bags.
Meanwhile, Hammerhead has been moving around the scrutineering station. We pass the first two stations with flying colours. Since the first two stations are stickering (where they put a World Solar Challenge sticker on the car) and measurement (where they weight the car), it's hard to fail these.
The third station is driver seat angle and ingress/egress. The seat angle is close to passing, but not quite. Which is odd, because the same seat passed last year, and the rule hasn't changed. They let us through anyway.
They check the eye height. The rules require that the driver's eyes be at least 700mm above the road, and the way they check this is they put a driver in the car wearing black goggles, and shine a laser in. If the laser is below the mark on the goggles, it's a pass.
The laser hits out car below the bottom of the windscreen. So that's all good.
The ingress/egress rules require each driver to get in to the car in 15 seconds, and to get out of the car in 15 seconds. Some other teams are having trouble with this; we do it in half the time available.
Next is NT Roads, who check the car mechanically. They ask us to wrap some brake lines to protect them from abrasion. No worries.
Then it's electrical. There's a new electrical rule this year which requires battery isolation to be built integral to the battery box. Said isolation is to be operable by both the driver and the emergency pull on the side of the vehicle. Our car has isolation in both of these places, but it's not integral to the battery, so it leaves a metre or two of wire live, which is a no-no.
(Rumour later is that about half the teams have failed on this same rule.)
So we must re-work our isolation. John Storey, the electrical scrutineer, explains a way to do it with a 12V supply and some additional batteries to drive that supply.
We return to the track. Steve Morgan, on hearing about the problem says, "Just use some string!".
John and I pick up the relay from our old battery management system, and head out. We go to MM, who send us to Delta, who send us to ISAS, who haven't got a relay that big. We go back to the showgrounds and show our relay to John Storey, who says it's unsuitable: it's a solid state relay. The rule specifies that the isolator must be a mechanical device, and ours isn't. He tells us about a device called a "contactor", which is basically like a relay only bigger and uglier.
So we go back to ISAS, who send us back to Delta. We have a lengthy chat to Dennis at Delta, and John realises that we don't need the complicated deal with the 12V supply and the auxiliary battery pack if we have two separate breakers: one for the driver, and one for the side of the car. Both must still be contained within the battery pack, so to get the pull to those two locations, we'll just use some string!
Dennis sends us to MC, who sell us two breakers and some DIN rail. Back to the pits, to find the box we already have is just too small, so off to Bunnings and Jaycar to buy a bigger box and some conduit to run the string through.
Back at the pits we do enough work to prove to ourselves that this solution will work, then end for the day. Dinner is whatever we want at Mindil Beach markets.
The following morning it's a 7:30 departure for the pits to finish our new battery breaker system and some attendant rearranging of wires.
Then we want to get some track testing. I fire up the telemetry system and today it (flip a coin...) doesn't work.
We go without telemetry, and the car gets as far as the first corner, where it conks out. The people in the follow car leap out and have a look, but can't see what's gone wrong. They leave the solar car where it is and return to the pits to check with Challenge personnel as to how to retrieve it. They instruct us to bring it back up the drag strip. Peter S, the Challenge safety officer, meets us out there and guides us through the tyre debris all over the strip as we tow Hammerhead back to the pit. We troubleshoot, and track down the fault to a connector that I had assembled with insufficient force. We replace the connector, and the car goes again.
We do several laps, returning to the pits after each lap or two to change drivers. The car performs fine, except for the telemetry. Most people return to the accomodation while John goes to Jaycar for a null modem cable to help me debug it. We use the cable to grab a boot log from the car, and return to accommodation. This evening, most of the students will go to an official do at Parliament.
-- Doug Burbidge http://dougburbidge.com/
Up early and take a small crew of three, Ellie, Roxy and Kirsty and I go out to the track to get the car ready for scrutineering. We remove the tape from the battery boxes and I remove the charging wires from the batteries. The drivers arrive minus Doug to practice ingress and egress. The boys easily manage to get in and out in the 15 sec allowed, this includes fastening the seat belt. Car goes in the trailer and off we go to Foskey pavilion at the show grounds.
We are the second car for the day, I get the team organised and signed on then we bring the car in. Stickers on and photo taken, next the weigh in. 310kg, heavier than I thought, but their weighing method is not precise as they only have two scales and can only weigh half the car at a time.
Next ingress and egress but we have to wait for Cambridge University, They struggle to demonstrate that they can get in and out in 15 seconds. We do it easily. Next a mechanical check. No problems, now NT licensing, they suggest we cover some of the brake lines with duct where they pass through the Ayres composite panel, that's an easy fix.
Now electrical, it seems I should have read more into that rule affecting the charging wires coming out of the batteries. It also means that we need to have the batteries isolated at the battery box and no "live" wires can come from the battery. This will cause us quite some work and we may struggle to find the parts needed in Darwin. Doug I will end up spending some hours talking through the problem and a particularly helpful guy, Denis at Delta electronics helps us work through it and sends us to where we can get some appropriate circuit breakers. Our solution will be a mechanical one with pull wires to the outside of the car and to the driver.
Next we go to battery scrutineering and we are done.
Back to the track and work on the car.
We don't quite get the batteries finished, we head back to camp. The team except for my self heads to Mindle beach markets. I get some washing done and watched the News, ABC TV cameras visited our car today and took quite a bit of footage, There was nothing on the news. By the time the team gets back from the markets I am ready for bed.
Friday get car finished do some laps start preparing for the journey South.
Solar Car Team.
Yesterday I focused on the telemetry. There's a Bluetooth dongle connected to an embedded computer in the car, which turns the car effectively into a Bluetooth device, visible to other computers. So we fire up a laptop, and tell it to search for Bluetooth devices, and the car pops up on the screen.
The first problem is that Windows wants to know the PIN for this new device. We guess a few at pseudorandom (0000, 1234, etc.), but have no success. We phone John in Perth who wrote the software, and he tells us that it's 7260, which is the model number of the embedded computer board.
Obvious, really. Why didn't we think of that?
(The reason that I am documenting this PIN here is that in two years I will have forgotten it, and will then search my own blog in order to find out what it is.)
We muck around with the boards to general success, and then move the embedded computer to a new location in the car, one that will be less vulnerable to getting hideously crushed whenever we lift the batteries in and out of the car.
After lunch we return, and test the car computer in its new location.
It doesn't work.
Windows is showing it as a Bluetooth device, but not as a Bluetooth _network_ device, which is a necessary thing for it all to actually work. I rearrange things, reboot things, spin thrice widdershins, call John in Perth, etc., all to no avail. Some of my testing is done in the front seat of our follow car as Tom does test laps.
We wrap for the day without me solving the problem.
We get partway back to our accomodation before I realise that I've forgotten to turn off the car. "We've forgotten something, go back!" is becoming something of a catch-cry for the team.
Today it was down to the pits again for a little more testing before our next thing. We get there, and discover that we've left the Bluetooth dongle back at the accomodation. "We've forgotten something, go back!" And John does.
The rest of us stay at the pit and clean the sides of the trailer, because our next thing is a visit to St John's school.
John returns with the dongle, and I continue to attempt to narrow down the problem. It starts working again. I don't know why.
We pack the car into the trailer to transport to St. John's school. I am reminded of Hofstader's Law: "Everything takes longer than you expect, even when you take Hofstader's Law into account."
We visit the school. We're visiting this particular school because the principal is married to the principal of Leeming. The visit goes well, and most of the team return to the accomodation for lunch, while I and a few others go take the car back to the pit for more troubleshooting.
The Bluetooth stops working again. I don't know why.
There's a Tesla Roadster in the car park in front of the pits, charging. The charge cable is connected to the car at the point you'd expect the fuel cap to be, and the cable is as thick as the hose on a petrol bowser. The other end of the cable connects to a generator on the back of a truck. The generator is bigger than the car.
The Bluetooth starts working again. I don't know why.
I am becoming gradually more of the opinion that it is not Windows' fault, but is a race condition on the car computer.
Steve Morgan and crew work on the brakes. There are two sounds of Hidden Valley for me: one is the sound of a solar car zooming down the straight. This always causes me to glance up, too late: the solar car is no longer visible through the narrow end of our pit, and the only thing I see is the solar car's follow wehicle. The other sound is Steve Morgan calling, "Press... release... press... release...", as they bleed air out of the brake lines.
We end the day with the Bluetooth still working, and with us (reasonably) ready for tomorrow morning's event: scrutineering.
-- Doug Burbidge http://dougburbidge.com/
Wed Oct 22.
This morning we visit St John's College this afternoon we will need to get the car ready for scrutineering. A few of us head out to Hidden Valley to do a little work on the car prior to taking it St John's for the visit, we are keen to get the telemetry going. When we get there we have forgotten the laptop with the Bluetooth dongle in it. I go back to get it. Fortunately peak hour traffic in Darwin is not so peak and I make the 15km round trip in good time.
When I get back the trailer is washed and the car is lined up with ramps I throw the Bluetooth to Doug and go about moving trailers to hook the Hilux onto the the solar car trailer. We check the lights and only the brake lights work, I fiddle with, pull plugs apart, check cable joins but still only brake lights. Ross arrives and we decide that he will follow the car and be our indicators. Radios allow us to tell Ross when we are changing lanes etc…
We get to St Johns and enjoy Morning tea and mingling with the student leadership team before meeting the rest of the school. Our students talk to theirs and we take a couple of them for a spin on their oval. I feel the morning has been a success and we head back to the track.
In the afternoon the team gets busy with the car, brakes are a concern and group work together to solve that problem. It seems joins in brake lines that were connected two years ago need to be revisited. Telemetry is now working, not sure why but Doug can't seem to break it so lets hope it works tomorrow. We apply mandatory stickers, check tyres, hook up head lights and collect and sort safety equipment. We go through a mental list with the team making sure we haven't forgotten any thing. In the evening we re-read the rules to make sure that we have not overlooked anything. I discover that the way I have set up the batteries for external charging contravenes one of the rules so I will have to change that first thing in the morning.
Hamburgers for Dinner, The patties made in the Girls room and I cook them in ours. Nuna have beaten us to the BBQ tonight. We beat them to it last night.
Scrutineering tomorrow 9:30am at Foskey Pavilion. Stay tuned.
Leeming Solar Car Team.
20th of October
We started today with a meeting at 8.15. Waking up Chloe was a near impossible task…We tried to wake her at 6.30, but she fell asleep again. So about 15 minutes later we tried again, only to find that she got madder and madder as we tried. Eventually we woke her, only to find that she didn't remember us waking her up, saying that she didn't say anything at all (cough...cough).
The team went down to Hidden Valley, a race track to test the car, where we worked on the car, made more friends and tested the car again. All of us got a turn at sitting in the support vehicle, and take photos of the car in action.
The Michigan team, one set to win, came to inspect the handiwork on our car. They seemed quite impressed with our efforts, and we hope they took some inspiration from us.
There are many other teams from across the world, including people from France, Germany, Turkey, Singapore, Malaysia, as well as some other Aussie teams.
We came home, made lunch for the whole team, and went swimming…twice…
The boys made dinner, and luckily, we haven't died…YET…
It was actually very nice, it was a whole tempura meal with a lot of veggies, fish and for the vegetarians, chicken and prawns yum!, yum!
Tomorrow we are going to St John's the local school, where Mrs. Morcombe is the principal (Yes, Mr. Morcombe our pricipals wife) works…then going down to the track before scrutineering on Thursday morning.
The final team members also arrived today, one being the one and only Mr Morgan, but also Trent and Tom, two more of our drivers and ex-students.
-The Solar Car Team
Thanks To Jeandre', we all have learnt some Afrikaans J
21st of October- Team Blog
Today we had a presentation of the car to the students and teachers of St John's College. This allowed the team to have a chance to sleep in, save the handful of "lucky" team members of who had to wake up at 6:30 am to roll the car into its trailer.
We arrived at the college mid morning and received a warm welcome from the staff and students. First we had a meet-and-greet in the staffroom with the principal, Mrs. Morcombe (Wife of our school's principal, Mr. Morcombe) as well as some of their staff and students. Following morning tea we displayed our solar car to the school.
We were quizzed thoroughly on our knowledge of the solar car and its various parts. They were particularly captivated by the structure of the Ayres composite panels and its incredible strength despite its lightness. A couple of the students were given the opportunity to ride in the car. One of these students was rather short and given the offer to join the team as our personal ballast. He politely declined.
In the afternoon it was back to the track for adjustments on the cars brakes and telemetry (data gathering systems). Doug is currently working on the problem with the Bluetooth connections between the team laptops and the cars systems. He's fixated on the problem and remains in high spirits but wants to, quote, "fly to Redmond, Washington and hit Bill Gates with a blunt instrument".
- The Team
Tuesday Oct 20
We are all up at a reasonable time and I get the opportunity to speak to Eoin Cameron on Breakfast Radio in Perth. It's 7:45 here so I am on the radio at 6:15 at home. He has been a very keen supporter of our project and generally gives us a few calls during the challenge.
After breakfast the team heads out to the track to do a bit more work on the car, telemetry being the major thing we need to get sorted today. There are a lot more people at the track today and we have lots of visitors. Michigan come by and check out our car along with some one from Japan TV asking if they can take some video of us and ask some questions (we might be on TV in Japan). David Rand also drops by and we get a choice of time for scrutineering, 9:30 am Thursday.
Yesterday we got some software emailed from John Treen which allows us to monitor the current use, battery temp, cabin and motor temp and voltage amongst other things and after a cal to John at 9:00am 7:30 Perth time (sorry John) we get a small but vital piece of info and telemetry works. We then decide to move the position of telemetry system in the car to a safer location I am concerned that it might get bashed and broken when we are installing batteries.
We do this and head back to camp for lunch I go and get some supplies from Jaycar, amazingly the first trip to Jaycar whilst we've been here, in past years I would have been to Jaycar 10 times by now (that's not an exaggeration). I then go and pick up Morgan, Trent and Tom from the airport. Back to the Alatai for more lunch Morgan's hungry, surprise, surprise. After eating we head out to the track for more track testing.
We put batteries in the car and fire it up with the hope that we will be able to receive telemetry whilst we do a lap around the track but the telemetry won't work. The car side of things is okay and the laptop can see the car but we suspect Windows is and issue, Doug mumbles some words of the effect, "Bloody Windows Blah Blah Blah."
We manage a couple of laps without telemetry but rely on Tom to relay some numbers from the displays to get some idea of what's going on in the car.
Some of us stay till after 6 trying to solve the problem, Doug talks to John for quite some time trying to work it out, we try various reboots and different sequences, we try different laptops and many other options within the network software, but eventually we are beaten and we head home. I turn on to Tiger Brennan Drive and Doug asks if I turned the car off, I can't remember so we do a quick u turn and go back, the car was still on.
We get back to camp and James ahs been busy preparing tempura vegies and prawns. We also have some fish fillets Morgan crumbs them and I cook them on the BBQ. Dinner is sensational. James has out done himself and I suspect that we've probably had the best meal of the trip. James has worked like a trouper to get this meal prepared and then cooks it all. A huge effort. I ask James if he'd consider being a chef. No! is the answer.
Tomorrow we head off to St John's School to show of the solar car and get the car ready for scrutineering in the afternoon.
More updates to follow.
Leeming Solar Car Team.
I get up early as usual, there are plenty of things that need to be done, whilst I know the car is here and safely locked in the pits at Hidden Valley, I still haven't seen it and it hasn't been out of the trailer, so we need to get it out and make sure things are up and running. We also need to go and get the support trailer which is in a transport company yard on the outskirts of Darwin.
I sort a bit of gear out and eventually the team begins to arise. I ask if they've slept well and what time they got to sleep, they all assure me it was around 11pm. I'm not so sure, it'll be interesting to see how well they make it through the day.
Around 7:30am I have seen that all of the team members are up and about, at 7:45 Julian, James, Jeandre and I take off out to Pinelands to get the support trailer. The rest of the team will meet us at Hidden Valley.
When we get there the team is busy unpacking the solar car trailer but have had to borrow some spanners to remove the wheel chocks to get the car out. Ours are in the crate at the bottom in front of the car and inaccessible with the car in. Mental note: Place tools required to get car out of trailer in box accessible with car in trailer.
The car comes out of the trailer and a number of teams come by to check it out. We remove the tape securing the array panels and look inside. The car seems to have survived the journey well and we set about installing batteries whilst Doug installs the brand new driver interface control board. This was the part that caused us problems in 2007 and I ordered a new one which arrived last week. I have one other one which works but does not allow us to have our display panels and a second spare that was given to us by the guys from UNSW, just trying to cover all bases.
We make changes to the current sense board, the readings were negative so we had to swap the wires around, and we install the batteries. Each Battery Pack weighs around 30kg and they are awkward to slide into the car but they seem to go in easily and it seems to be getting easier each time we do it. A quick check to see that every thing is plugged in correctly and we hold our breath as we power up. Everything boots first time including display panels for the motor controller. We are happy.
By this stage we have decided to send some of the team back to the apartments. They have some lunch and then go into town for some souvenir shopping. The crew at the race track fit the telemetry and current sense interface boards and go for a couple of laps around the circuit. Ross our Principal has taken some leave to come up to Darwin to see the start of the race and has come out to the track to see what is happening. He jumps into the support vehicle as we lap Hidden Valley Race track.
I am pleased with today's efforts and the crew left at the track head back to the accommodation. Spaghetti Bolognaise, garlic bread and leafy salad is on the menu for tonight and it goes down a treat. There seems to be enough to feed two teams though, but this is a bonus as we will freeze what is left and take it on our journey to Adelaide. Tomorrow night James is preparing a surprise for the team, I'm looking forward to it.
John Beattie Leeming SHS Solar Car Team.
Yesterday we set wing for sunny Darwin, where the x are hot, and the y are hotter.
(You can substitute your own values for x and y. If you're stumped for a good value for y, I can tell you that it's pretty damn warm inside a solar car.)
This is my fourth World Solar Challenge, and my third with Leeming High School. As usual, we rocked up at the airport, and team leader John Beattie distributed a variety of odd-shaped packages to students to hand carry onto the plane, including two-way radios, cameras, embedded computers, and a spare solar car battery, for which he has had to phone Sydney and get a dangerous goods form.
We fly: thirteen students, one ex-student, three teachers, a principal and me. The captain comes back to chat to us during the flight, to find out what it's all about.
We arrive, and meet another teacher in the gate lounge. He's driven a school bus towing the solar car trailer, complete with solar car, four thousand odd kilometres from Leeming to Darwin. He hands over the keys, and gets on to the plane we've just got off. He'll do the reverse in Adelaide: fly in, meet us, take the keys, and drive back to Perth.
We make a mountain of our luggage, sign rental car forms, transfer the mountain to the bus, commute to our hotel in Darwin, and unload.
Nuna, the team who have won the last three challenges, are already there. We chat. They've been in Darwin five weeks, and have already pranged their car. (It's all better now, though.)
The rest of the day is quiet.
In the morning, John Beattie rises ridiculously early, as is his custom, and goes to get the logistics trailer which contains a wide variety of our supplies and which had been shipped separately.
The rest of us take the school bus to pit 19 at Hidden Valley racetrack. We meet and greet a variety of other teams, and borrow a spanner from Bochum to remove the wheel chocks from our trailer.
We fit the computer and the driver control board and displays into the car, and they all work.
Last time, I fitted the wrong thermistor to the motor. This time, I've made sure that I have the one the manual specifies: a 10k thermistor, negative temperature coefficient. I grovel around exensively under the car, taking the old one off the motor, verifying that the new one really really is negative slope by dipping it into a cold can of soft drink and watching the resistance decrease, soldering the new one on, turning on the motor controller, and discovering that it's still wrong.
It turns out that I did fit the one that the manual specified last time, but the manual is wrong, at least with respect to our particular controller. Our motor controller is one we picked up cheap because it was the manufacturer's prototype. A quick call to the manufacturer elicits a promise to have a look around and see if they can figure out what the right thing is, but given that it's a prototype of a now-obsolete model, I don't hold much hope. So tomorrow we'll probably figure out how to attach a different type of temperature sensor.
To finish the day, we take the car out for a couple of laps, with me in the driver's seat. All works well, except that when I pull back into the pit, I realise that I've left the handbrake on the whole time.
Spot the braincell.
-- Doug Burbidge http://dougburbidge.com/
18th of October - Not dead… yet…
It was 6:30 am people started arriving at the airport (in a shocking turn of events, Jeandre' is the first person at the terminal) for the 8:40 flight. After making a special point to be early, Mr. Beattie was one of the last few to arrive. We all checked in and went through the security point, before waiting until we could board. The flight was uninteresting, until we hit strong turbulence. The wing caught on fire and we almost died.
Not really. But we did play some card games and drew some interesting caricatures of each other and our teachers. We'd landed at around 1.30 pm (midday Perth time) and instantly began to feel the ten degree difference in temperature, which felt like twenty once we were outside. At the airport we met up with Mr. Hedgeland, who seemed awfully serene for a person who had just driven the team bus, trailer and solar car 4000 kilometres.
At the Alatai apartments we instantly met up with a member of the Nuna team from the Netherlands. Their car had the misfortune of crashing a couple of weeks ago and they'd been working on their replacement array it seemed to be going okay now though. We chatted with him and wished their team all the best before going to our rooms to fight over beds.
The priority of the afternoon, for us at least, was to pick up some groceries since everyone was famished. Steaks, sausages, rolls, bread, cereal, spreads and drinks came to a total of $248, more than Mr. Sheppard's first car. Meanwhile, those that stayed back either settled in and unpacked or went for a refreshing swim in the pool, complete with a waterfall. Sandwiches were soon to follow.
Later in the evening the team assembled around the barbeque whilst dinner was cooked. James inspected the torch Mr. Beattie was using to see in the low light and ended up breaking the switch, so that it could only be turned off by taking the batteries out. It is decided that James should not work on the solar car tomorrow. After dinner it's time for a quick meeting, planning out what will happen tomorrow, and then we all go back to our rooms and wind down before bed. We'll all be at Hidden Valley Raceway in the morning.
19th of October – Team Blog
Today we took the solar car down to Hidden Valley raceway and prepared it for it's first test drive. By nine am all the team members in Darwin had made their way to the track and were starting to work on the car. We were startled by the amount of interest in our car from the other teams. In pit eighteen, one down from us, the German team told us they'd be driving two cars; one shaped like a duck's bill that they'd driven in the last race, and one that is shaped more like a conventional passenger car.
Work on our car went relatively smoothly. Doug got our computer and electronic components in working order whilst the tools and equipment were unpacked from the trailers. Roughly half a dozen teams were at the track and some were already doing laps. We were lucky enough to have the car in working order by around midday and got a few laps of our own in. Tomorrow we plan to relay data using a Bluetooth connection between the laptop in the following support vehicle and the solar car to diagnose problems and tune for optimal performance.
In the afternoon team members were given the opportunity to explore Darwin's city centre, and to shop for souvenirs and ingredients for dinner. Our final two drivers, Tom and Trent, and teacher Mr. Morgan arrive from Perth tomorrow.
- The Team
Mid Morning on Saturday 17 Oct Keith, the bus and Hammerhead rolled safely into Darwin. After 4000km on the road, a broken door handle on the trailer, a couple of brushes with kangaroos in the night and a bit of dirt, the "A" team arrives relatively unscathed.
Keith made his way out to Hidden Valley race way and after a couple of phone calls parked Hammerhead securely in pit number 19. He meets a couple of the teams already at the track and hears rumours of Nuna's road testing and reconnaissance trip to Adelaide. He then headed into Darwin for a well earned rest in air conditioned comfort.
On Sunday the 18th I arrive at Perth airport at 7:00AM. To my surprise I am almost the last to arrive, we check in pretty easily and make it through security up to the departure lounge. I have some issue with one of the boxes I am carrying, it contains a Lithium Battery that failed to make the bus before it headed to Darwin. It's a fairly heavy object (3kg) and would like quite suspicious when passing through an X-ray machine I would imagine. I had some concerns about wether I could take it on the flight with us and on Friday afternoon I had made a call to Qantas and very helpful assistant organised a dangerous goods approval number after contacting a Qantas official based at Sydney airport. Not bad considering it was 8:45 pm in Sydney at the time. After a brief look at the package, a phone call and a chat to the security supervisor I am allowed through with the battery.
While we sit in the departure lounge Leonie twitters on her iphone and reads of Nuna's crash during road testing and that replacement solar panels have arrived in Darwin, For those who are only following the Blog for the first time the Nuon team and Nuna 1,2,3 and 4, have won the last 4 world solar challenges and for them to have crashed before the challenge is big news.
The team says last goodbyes to family and board the plane for a relatively smooth flight to Darwin.
As we get off the plane and make our way into the airport terminal I feel a blast of hot air and I am instantly reminded of the heat and humidity of Darwin, we'll have some time to acclimatise. We meet Keith in the airport, he looks remarkably refreshed considering the distance he has travelled in the last 5 days. We exchange keys and brief stories of his trip before he boards the plane that we got off and heads home.
We find our bus and support vehicles then load up and head into town. We get to the Alatai and decide to have a quiet afternoon. A few of us head off to the shop and get some supplies for tonight and tomorrow's breakfast. The rest have a swim and relax before dinner, BBQ. We discover that the Nuna team are staying here and we share the BBQ with them. I talk to the cook who was also driving their car at 110km when the rear tyre blew out causing him to lose control and spin out. He said that there was a lot of dust and when it settled he was facing the wrong way with the array on the ground some meters away. They damaged 4 or 5 panels on their array which are now repaired and they spent all day yesterday road testing. They seem pleased.
Today we will head to Hidden Valley and start work on getting Hammerhead ready to go to Adelaide. Some will go and get our support trailer, others will stay with the car while the rest go for some shopping and prepare tonight's dinner Spaghetti Bolognaise.
The Leeming Journey has begun.
After months of preparation we are finally on our way to Darwin for our third crack at the World Solar Challenge. I guess our challenge officially started on Tuesday when Keith Hedgeland our resident Photgrapher, Rally Driver and Long Haul Bus Driver headed toward Darwin in the school bus with solar car trailer in-tow. At last report (Thurs Evening) Keith was seen heading East from Fitzroy Crossing toward Halls Creek. The bus and solar car trailer are travelling well with only one small altercation with a Kangaroo just outside of Newman. The rest of the team will join Keith in Darwin on Sunday but the meeting will be brief as Keith will fly back to Perth and then meet the team again in Adelaide in 16 Days time to drive the bus back to Perth.
Prior to the cars departure the team has been busy modifying the car which has involved construction of a new front array, including gull wing door, modifying swing arms to suit new treaded tyres and installing new Lithium Iron Phospate batteries and telemetry equipment.
Of course there are many other activities that are associated with a challenge of this nature, team members packing camping and cooking equipment continuing fundraising efforts and modifying trailers.
New sponsors to the team this year include Murdoch University, Myer, Local Drug action groups, Siomar Battery Engineering, Hella, Bull Creek Lions, Corporate Express, AST Australia. I would also like to mention our ongoing sponsors, Leeming SHS Parents and Citizens, Ayres Composite Panels, Engleland, Communications Australia, Avocado Imagery and Signpoint. Plus all of the local businesses, parents and supporters who have donated prizes and equipment to help us raise funds.
Adelaide here we come!
Stay tuned for more updates.
This BLOG updates as teams publish their contributions around the world.