By Leslie Fuentes
Over the summer, the Solar Car Team built their third car, Helios. After completion, the team competed at the Solar Car Challenge in Fort Worth from July 14-19. In their debut entry at the competition, they brought home ninth place, better than almost all first time competitors.
“Every time I crossed the finish line, marking the start of a new lap, I felt so accomplished at what we had built and wanted to keep pushing our car to the limits to gain more laps,” senior driver Sandra Loza-Avalos said.
Even the opponents knew they would be in trouble if their car preformed as tough as it looked.
“Everyone there loved their design of our car. They were actually a little bit afraid of it because they said ‘Man, if you guys actually keep this thing running you’re going to be hard to beat’,” advisor Dr. Joseph Dungan said.
It took a total of 10 months of scrutineering to make Helios capable of completing 88 laps around the track. For some, those tasks were the favorite.
“Welding and cutting, mechanizing, trouble shooting problems, redesigning as we go, everything as a challenge that accompanied the mechanical aspect of the car constructional process, I breathed for,” senior mechanical team captain Devin Keilberg said.
However, being able to get sponsors was one of the hardest tasks for this group to accomplish.
“I couldn’t seem to break through [to the sponsors] because they either didn’t have money to give me or they didn’t want to give me money until I showed proof of concept,” Dungan said.
After many hit and miss opportunities Dungan finally found a sponsor who was willing to take a chance with his project.
“[Dr. Les Shephard and I] hit it off and at the time he had a funding and he said ‘I’m gonna give you this much money’ and that’s what got us started,” he added.
Winning was definitely a great feeling after all the hardships the group had to overcome paid off.
“It’s an amazing feeling driving a car you built 40 miles an hour on a nascar track, with the prospect of winning breathing down your neck,” Loza-Avalos said.