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Sunrayce 99

Driver: Corey Barber, 4th-year student. Reaching is Chris Early, 3rd-year student and on the radio is Brian Nicosia, the electrical team leader. (Photos by Stephanie Gross.)

U.Va. Engineering Students Capture Solar Energy For Car Race, Airship Demonstration On June 20

On Sunday, June 20, about 40 custom-built, solar-powered cars rolled into Charlottesville as part of the Sunrayce, a national, 10-day competition among college engineering
students seeking to harness renewable energy
from the sun.

The University's team is the only Virginia team registered to compete, after qualifying last week. Daniel Taliaferro, president of the 12-member U.Va. team, will be driving
U.Va.'s No. 87, "The Revolution," powered by a $40,000 battery pack identical to the one used by General Motors in its Impact, a solar-powered car that has been test marketed in California.

The cars pulled into University Hall's north parking lot between 2 and 3 p.m. on Sunday. At the same time, an airship -- the 20-meter-long, partially solar-powered "Aztec" designed and built by another team of U.Va. engineering students -- soared overhead.

The Aztec airship, supported by numerous corporate sponsors and a family foundation, is operated by remote controls designed by U.Va. students. On-board computers operate a propulsion system that uses three motors, one mounted on the tail and two on the sides.

"Aztec is a showcase for the capabilities of solar-powered vehicles," said Huzaini Ghazali, president of the airship project team. The airship also will fly over Raleigh, as the Sunrayce cars reach that destination on Monday, June 21.

Sunrayce is a biennial, long-distance race featuring college and university teams from across North America. The teams design, build and drive cars powered solely by electricity generated from solar panels. Sunrayce 99 is the fifth solar-vehicle race staged by three sponsors, the U.S. Department of Energy, General Motors and EDS, a provider of management consulting, electronic business solutions, and systems and technology expertise.

The race began June 20, at 9 a.m. in Washington, D.C, and ends June 29, at Epcot, at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Fla. Competitors will follow a five-state route over highways and country roads, pausing for midday pit stops or overnight stays in the following locations:

  • in Virginia, Charlottesville and Keysville;
  • in North Carolina, Raleigh, Rockingham and Charlotte;
  • in South Carolina, Spartanburg and Clemson;
  • in Georgia, Gainesville, Atlanta, Madison, Macon and Sylvester;
  • in Florida, Tallahassee, Lake City, Ocala and Orlando

The team with the lowest cumulative time over the 10-day race wins the event. Awards include cash prizes for the top three teams as well as trophies and scholastic achievement awards for technical innovation, engineering excellence, artistic talents, teamwork and good sportsmanship.

GM and the Department of Energy created the biennial race in 1990 to promote educational excellence in mathematics, science and engineering. Student teams blend technical and scientific expertise across a range of disciplines including computer-aided design, computational fluid dynamics tools, solar cell applications and advanced construction methods and materials.

The Department of Energy provides Sunrayce teams with extensive technical assistance and offers testing of their solar arrays. GM provides a test track for qualifying events and the race, and coordinates public outreach during the competition. EDS makes aerodynamic performance analysis and photo-realistic image design consulting services available to the collegiate teams. During the race, EDS' timing and scoring systems provide continuous results.

Usually, it takes a student team about two years to raise the necessary funds -- $120,000 to $200,000 - to compete in this race, said Taliaferro. But this team managed to raise enough money -- $85,000 - to design and build the car in less than 10 months.

"The equipment is the best money can buy," Taliaferro said, acknowledging financial backing from alumni, aerospace manufacturer Lockheed Martin, and Booz·Allen & Hamilton, a global management and technology consulting firm.

For more information about U.Va.'s entry in Sunrayce, contact Daniel Taliaferro in Charlottesville on the afternoon of June 20 at the University Hall parking lot. For more information on the airship, call Huzaini Ghazali, at the Aztec project lab at (804) 924-4425 or at (804) 984-3655; or write him by email at; or call Audra Burchfield at (804) 924-4425 or write her by email at For information before and during the solar-car race, including photos and daily team standings, visit the Sunrayce website.

Contact: Fariss Samarrai, (804) 924-3778.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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