FSGP 2019 Recap
This year, the Formula Sun Grand Prix (FSGP) took place at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Featuring 17 teams from Canada, USA and Puerto Rico, each team brought a self-designed and built solar powered vehicle to be evaluated then raced over the course of the six day event.
Midnight Sun attended the event with 26 members, primarily comprised of new members and newly promoted members who have stepped up to take leadership positions for our next four-seater cruiser class vehicle; MSXIV. Our primary goal at this competition was to gain race experience. With several key senior members graduating, new members are stepping up in their place and gaining competition and scrutineering experience with our previous vehicle as they design our next car.
FSGP took place from July 1st to the 6th with the first three days reserved for scrutineering and the last three for the track race. The scrutineering process is split into two primary sections: static scrutineering and dynamic scrutineering. Static scrutineering assesses a number of vehicle components, such as the array, battery management system and mechanical components while dynamic scrutineering tests the vehicle’s ability to turn, stop and maneuver.
As is the custom at solar car competitions, the team had to overcome numerous challenges before, during and after scrutineering. These problems ranged from sheared motor bolts to shorted mosfets. Although some of these problems seemed daunting at first, especially with none of our previous mechanical leads present, our new members were able to step up and play a key role in getting MSXII onto the track.
Through diligent work over the first few days of competition, our car passed all static scrutineering stations, allowing us to move forward to dynamic scrutineering. This phase of scrutineering was almost a smooth ride as we passed the slalom, U-turn and Figure-8 tests with flying colours. However, similarly to last year, we faced challenges with brakes. This is primarily due to the weight distribution in our car, which makes it difficult for MSXII to stop in the time frame required by regulations. After many repetitions and discussions with scrutineers, we were given a pass for dynamics with a 3-lap penalty, which was the final sticker needed to clear us to race on the track
Finally, around noon on the final day of competition, MSXII made its way down pit road heading towards the infamous Turn 1 of Circuit of the Americas. This first turn had earned its ‘infamous’ title due to its steep incline, leaving numerous teams struggling to clear it. An unlucky few had to be towed off the track.
Everyone held their breath as the car slowly made its way up the hill, the tension building by the second. At this point, every team in the pits was staring up the hill watching our car crawl meter by meter up to the top. MSXII finally reached the top and turned the corner and pit road exploded into cheers. The feeling of watching our vehicle persevere and complete the first lap is something we would never forget.
This support from other teams shows the community component of solar car competitions. Despite it being a race, every team wants to see you succeed and will offer tools, expertise and support at any point during the race. It’s so easy to walk to another team’s bay and have a chat about how they did their battery box, or how their brakes are set up. Everyone is so open about everything that sometimes it doesn’t feel like a competition, instead it’s a large group of university students with a collective goal in mind.
Six days of perseverance and determination earned us a 3rd place finish in the multi-occupant vehicle (MOV) class! However, more important than the trophy was the invaluable competition experience gained. Our team was exposed to a myriad of challenges, both car and team related, and overcame it all! It was important that new members be exposed to these types of situations so they can learn from them and apply this new knowledge to the design of the next vehicle. With FSGP 2019 in the rearview mirror, the team will get right back into working on MSXIV in preparation for ASC 2020.