Sun-powered car, 'Stang-built star
By Tanya Januch
Western students are working together to create a new and improved solar-powered vehicle, scheduled to race from Washington to Florida in June 1999.
The Western Sunstang team is building a new car since the 1996 model has 10,000 km on it and all the other participants will have a new model for the race in June, said Brent Williams, technical director for the Sunstang and second-year engineering student at Western.
Mike Oklejewski, electrical director and third-year engineering student, said the decision to build a new Sunstang was based on the need to keep up with new technologies in this field and make the car lighter, faster and more efficient. "It gives students the opportunity to learn things that you cannot learn from a textbook," he added.
The team has a budget of $500,000 for the next three years which has been built up through the help of several sponsors, Williams explained.
Michelin Tires donated specially designed tires for the car in addition to providing financial support, said Douglas MacDonald, spokesperson for Michelin Tires.
John Tarasuk, chair of mechanical and material engineering and advisor for the Sunstang project for the past ten years, said he has noticed many changes over the years. When they first set out to build the solar-powered vehicle they were extremely naive and optimistic and couldn't comprehend the enormity of it, he explained.
Knowledge from past experience has been passed on from students who worked on the project and there has been steady improvement of the project over the years, Tarasuk added.
The challenges now are less to do with technical details and more to do with the administrative aspect, he explained. "The university could do more to support the venture," Tarasuk said. "The university doesn't appreciate how much hard work students put into the project."
He added the main problem for the project has been trying to find production space.
While the majority of students involved are engineering students, many volunteers are outside of the engineering faculty. "The diversity of the volunteers will offer different views on the project and ultimately strengthen the team," Williams said.
Jessica Shepherd, a first-year visual arts student said she became involved in the project by designing t-shirts and recruiting new volunteers. "You do not need to be an engineering student to participate," she said. "If you want to be involved in the technical aspect they are more than willing to teach you how to wire a circuit."
With the production of new Sunstang beginning on Sept. 26, eight months before its first race, Williams said he believes Western has an excellent team and is confident they will do well.