The Drive to Win
Solar Vehicle Team Pulls Together for a First Place Victory

The Phoenix
The Phoenix of the Solar Vehicle Team

The Solar Vehicle Team at Oregon State has just returned from Texas with a victory in the 2013 Formula Sun Grand Prix, but it has been a long road of effort and endurance to capture this 193 lap win.

Founded in 2005 by Kat Han and Hai-Yue Han, the Solar Vehicle Team (SVT) entered their first race in 2008 with  no experience and without seeing another car. Through extensive trial and error, and learning from what they saw of other teams’ problems and solutions, the SVT improved their electrical system and continued their test drives.

But not without obstacles. In 2011, the teamʼs car caught fire during da Vinci Days due to an overheated battery, leaving the car, the driver, and his personal belongings in flames. While the driver made it out just in time, the car burnt to the  ground.

Since then, the team has worked even harder to perfect their vehicle with a more efficient battery and better car model that eventually led them to victory in 2013. The car – called the Phoenix – is befitting of the team’s victorious rise from the ashes.

During the two to three years the team spent designing and building the Phoenix, they had much help from unexpected sources. Aside from the sponsors advertised on the vehicle, the Oregon State Police offered their radar gun to record the speed of the vehicle during the team’s countless test runs, making the car faster and stronger.

With the Phoenix ready to compete in the 2013 Formula Sun Grand Prix, the SVT took on the challenge of being one of the only competitors to make their own battery protection system, which caused a few technical problems but was a valuable learning experience for the teammates.

Aside from the mechanical aspect of building a better car, the SVT’s focus before the big race in Texas was on teamwork. They went through a ropes challenge courses – among other team-building exercises – to strengthen the core of the group. Kat Han, a still-active member and team mentor, emphasized how well everyone focused on teamwork this year by stating: “we all loved working together. When we were working it didn’t even feel like work, it was just like we were hanging out.”

But the teamwork doesnʼt stop there. At the Formula Sun Grand Prix, race participants worked together to ensure everyone’s vehicles functioned properly. The SVT was no exception, graciously giving tires to a group in need. And since the SVT never officially raced the motor properly, they thankfully accepted a motor from another team who could not race at the event.

The Grand Prix worked as a give-and-take community, with each team understanding the challenges and triumphs of fellow competitors. But there could be only one winner, and that was the Solar Vehicle Team at Oregon State, which took home the gold thanks to the reliability of the vehicle, and the impressive talent and teamwork of the students and their peers.

–Aynsley Eggen


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