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Solar Car Team departs for national challenge.

Byline: Susan McGrath Staff Writer

Ingenuity and hard work have paid off for the Pana High School Solar Car Team, who is headed to Texas today as the only team representing Illinois in a national race.

Team members Lucas Duduit, Boone Elledge, Jessica Pollman, and Katelyn Townsend, along with their teacher Stephen Bonser, team photographer Denise Jones, and a team parent, will compete in the Solar Car Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth with 37 other high school teams.

The team did well last year in a an over-the-road race, taking fifth place and receiving individual and team accolades, but the race on the track will involve more teams and be a different type of challenge, said Duduit, the team's captain.

Due to different road conditions and performance standards for the track race, the team had to completely change their design. They went from a four-wheeled car to a three-wheeled "hardtail, solar cycle." This vehicle also lacks the rear suspension needed in the previous car.

Duduit explained that the track is more about endurance than overcoming obstacles and distances. The team will race six hours a day and will have three-hour shifts, with team members trading out. The number of days they race will depend on how they qualify.

The car will run on a permanent magnet motor with 72 volts, and be powered by lead acid batteries from 6-12 volts. It features a programmable motor controller and has a customizable volt and flow charge.

The team was able to build the solar panels themselves with HighTec in Michigan City, IN. Though they helped sponsor the team last, Duduit said the panels were preassembled, so this year was more fun for the team.

The rules of the challenge also require a lot of safety features, including five-point safety harness, roll bar, a crush zone four inches from the main frame, and a battery fan that circulates at least three times per minute. With the battery type the Pana team is using, Duduit said this is not an issue, but the requirements written to cover all types.

With their available battery power, the team hopes to have half a charge at the end of the race day and easily have their 5kw battery pack fully charged for the next day.

The team finally got the car fully up and running on June 14, and have performed many tests and timings since then, continuing to work out their average speed for optimum battery life.

Team members said they are grateful to their many sponsors, who are recognized with their names on the side of the car.

The Solar Car Challenge is the top project-based STEM Initiative helping motivate students in Science, Engineering, and Alternative Energy. The SCC Education Program developed in 1993 as a high school extracurricular program, and later evolved into the Solar Car Challenge Foundation.

Updates on the team's progress in the Solar Car Challenge will be posted on their Facebook page, Pana Solar Car Team.

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Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Geographic Code:1U7TX
Date:Jul 10, 2019
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