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Animas High students’ sun-powered contraption qualifies for Solar Car Challenge

Hitting 60 mph ‘terrifying stupid and awesome’

More than five months of intense efforts paid off as two recent Animas High School graduates’ car qualified for the Solar Car Challenge.

During the so-called scrutineering process late last week, judges required Dylan Kroes and Dominique “Domi” Frideger to rewire their car from a hand throttle to a foot throttle – because a foot throttle is more in the “spirit” of a real car – and to rewire their battery-management system because the original configuration might “fail violently” – which means explode.

“How hard could that be?” Frideger wrote in a blog post late Monday. “Turns out, really hard.”

Members of other teams pitched in to help, as did several engineers and veteran judges.

“Someone had unwired the hand throttle and set to work getting the foot throttle all ready to go, then when they went to wire it into the motor controller, they had forgotten which wires went where, and this led to a veritable mess of possible wire combinations,” Frideger wrote. “We did the math tonight, and with the number of wires we had versus the number of connecting ports, there were 16,777,216 possible combinations.”

They were unable to get the car working by the deadline at 5 p.m. Friday. So, they loaded it on its trailer and continued working several hours that night.

Team Energy Audacity headed to the challenge’s first stopping point, Ardmore, Oklahoma, where more engineers and competitors helped.

“Finally, at 11 p.m., a boy from the Plano (Texas) Solar Car Team with a surprisingly in-depth knowledge of electrical discovered the right combination of wires,” Frideger said, “and we pushed the pedal to the much-awaited sound of our wheel spinning.”

Then it was on to the other challenge, a switch of batteries.

On Tuesday, the car took off from Ponca City, Oklahoma, headed for Manhattan, Kansas, about 140 miles.

“The car’s running beautifully, and we didn’t even have to stop to recharge the batteries because they’re charging so efficiently from our solar panels,” Frideger said from the truck hauling the trailer. “That’s pretty unusual not to have to stop to recharge.”

The car is averaging 30 mph, Frideger said.

“We tried to get it up to the maximum speed and got it to 60 mph,” he said.

“That was terrifying, stupid and awesome.”

The team had traveled about 40 miles when the car hit 60 mph and blew a battery. So it went back on the trailer for the final 100 miles to Manhattan, where a new battery will be installed. The team will incur a 16-mile penalty for replacing the battery but are in the Challenge despite missing the first few days.

Wednesday is a media day in Manhattan, and on Thursday, it’s off to Fremont, Nebraska. The challenge’s ultimate destination is Minneapolis.

“We’re going right up the heartland,” Frideger said. “This really gives you a deep appreciation for America.”


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