Team Energy Audacity may have come in last in the Solar Car Challenge, but the two teenagers’ grit in the face of obstacles and the lessons they learned make them winners nonetheless.
Recent Animas High School graduates Dominique “Domi” Frideger and Dylan Kroes, both 18, spent almost six months designing and building their car, Solis, with the support of community members and businesses. Their goal was to enter the challenge, which pits high school teams from across the country in creating a road-worthy car and driving from Fort Worth, Texas, to Minneapolis.
Solis traveled 215.9 miles during the challenge, after its designers faced several engineering obstacles, including needing to rewire the hand throttle to a foot throttle and redesigning and rebuilding their battery-management system. Along the route, they pushed their car to a maximum speed of 60 mph and exploded a battery, ran into cloudy weather – death to solar cars that need to continuously recharge – and trailered and untrailered their car countless times.
The team expected to be back in Durango on Tuesday with the car. Over the next couple of weeks, Solis may be visible along the streets of Durango as its temporary license remains in effect.
For their stick-to-itiveness, the team was awarded the Guntis Terauds Award, which is presented to the solar car team “displaying the highest level of courage in the face of engineering obstacles.” Frideger was one of nine students inducted into “The Order of the Solar Cell,” which is presented to “those extremely special people who believe in high school solar car racing and the great students who make it happen.”
“This project has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Frideger wrote in his blog Saturday night after the awards presentation. “The six-month period that this project has spanned has been the densest period of learning I have ever experienced. Not only have Dylan and I learned tangible skills like fundraising, welding, wiring, a deeper understanding of electricity, public relations and so much else, but we have both also learned more abstract lessons.”
Among those are the values of both hard work and efficient work, he said.
“If you do something well the first time, it will save you countless hours down the road,” he said. “I have also learned that there are very few problems that cannot be solved if you spend enough time on them.”
Organization and planning are more important than he realized,” Frideger said.
“No matter what we could have improved on, though,” he said, “we did it! We really did it. It has truly been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and I hope to continue moving my life in this direction for many years to come.”
Frideger is taking a year off before starting college. Kroes will begin studying mechanical engineering at the University of Denver in the fall with the eventual goal of going into aerospace engineering.
Both hope this is only the first of many solar cars to come from the ingenuity and learning of Durango students.