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Martha and Susan’s Excellent Adventures » King's Canyon

Archive for the 'King's Canyon' Category

World Solar Challenge 2009

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

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So for 2nd year project, I thought it would be a good, easy idea to supervise a bunch of students working on the solar car. I don’t have to create a project from scratch, plus they’re pretty much self-supervised, so good idea. Next good outcome was that I felt responsible for them, and went along on the race this past week. The down-side was that the whole project was massively behind schedule, so I really was terrified that someone would be seriously injured/killed sometime over the past few weeks. There were some close calls on the way up to Darwin that I’m not going to terrify you with the details of, but in the end they made it up to Darwin and the start of the race. Yael, Andy and I flew up there to watch the scrutineering, time qualifiers, and check out Litchfield National Park.

Yael and Andy hadn’t been to Uluru yet, so we decided to leave the day before the race started and get out there ahead of the team, then meet up with them again some time after Alice Springs. I kinda wanted to stay with the team in case something happened, but in retrospect it’s really good that Yael and Andy dragged me away, because my stress levels were skyrocketing - there were a few tears the day I was leaving, trying to get the academic supervisor to make them go slow at the start and take it easy on the race. If I’d been there I’d probably just have stressed everyone out further.

The day we left was the start of the electric/hybrid vehicle race, which was also running at the same time as the solar car race. The most impressive of the cars, the Tesla, we caught up with somewhere around Katherine:

Tesla

Isn’t it beautiful? And yes, that’s a 3-phase generator that was trailered along after it to power it along the race.

One of our first stops on the trip was the Devil’s Marbles. Andy, Yael, and Nic (ex-solar car, I think, and along for the trip) climbed up a bunch of the marbles:

The Devil's Marbles

The next stop was impressive. We got to Uluru before sunset, set up camp, went for a swim, walked around, watched the sunset on Uluru. The next day we saw the sunrise on Uluru, did the Valley of the Winds walk at Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) (~6.5k), then drove to King’s Canyon and did the rim walk (~6k). And everything is quite spread out, so there was quite a bit of driving involved in all that as well.

Uluru

King's Canyon

Sunrise on the Outback

We then stopped off in Tattooine, where we took a look at the Millenium Falcon:

Millenium Falcon

When we got back to the Stuart Highway, we found out we were about an hour behind Sunswift (UNSW solar car team). So we took our time, checked out the people they’d just passed (Principia and MIT, turned out), and then went on ahead of them to leave them some messages of love and encouragement for the next day:

We *heart* solar

We stuck with the team for the full 5th and final day of the race:

Sunswift

Sunswift crossed the finish line that evening: 4th place over-all in Challenge class, and the first car running silicon solar cells to cross the finish line. Extremely well done for a student-run team, and the best UNSW has ever done at the World Solar Challenge since the team began. A combination of the students managing to simply keep the car on the road without any major mechanical or electrical failures for the full 3000+ km (which they couldn’t manage on the way up), and some of the serious competition putting themselves out of the running on the first day - Twente had a tire blow-out and rolled their car, Aurora had a blow-out and spun in 360’s into the on-coming traffic lane (luckily there was no traffic) then destroyed their front suspension when they went off then back on to the highway, and Unicore or Omnicore, the Belgians, was caught by a gust of wind when trying to pass the Japanese team, was blown off the road, slightly air-born, and their array ended up in a tree somehow. No driver injuries. Absolutely terrifying. But our kids finished, and they spent the rest of the time celebrating a very well-earned finish:

At the finish

Sunswift in Adelaide

Fountain at the ceremonial finish