Iowa State Students Solar Car on Display at Farm Progress Show

August 1, 2018, 8:23 am | Willy Klein

AMES, Iowa – Team PrISUm wraps up a busy summer schedule at the Farm Progress Show Aug. 28-30, near Boone, where their solar vehicle, Penumbra, will be on display at the Iowa State University exhibit.

Team PrISUm is an Iowa State student organization that designs, builds and races solar powered electric vehicles. Penumbra is their current vehicle, a solar powered utility vehicle, capable of hauling four people and groceries – complete with an entertainment screen.

This summer they have conducted outreach across Iowa, through Nebraska and along the Oregon Trail to Bend, Oregon. Their annual Sun Run in June took them on a road trip around Iowa, visiting sponsors and youth events.

“During the Sun Run, we talk to elementary students and engineers about solar power and what we do on the team,” said Sean Collins, a member of Team PrISUm. “We teach anyone that is willing to listen about the science behind our design and what thought process we used while designing the car. They get to observe the car, interact with it and really learn how a solar car works.”

Penumbra solar car on display in Wyoming.The team went to Nebraska in July with expectations of competing in the Formula Sun Grand Prix and qualifying for the American Solar Challenge road tour. The Formula Sun Grand Prix is a three-day track race where solar cars compete directly against each other.

In order to qualify for the American Solar Challenge road tour, a vehicle must complete 96 laps in one day or 143 laps in two consecutive days. Each driver must complete 24 laps to qualify for ASC. Penumbra didn’t qualify for the ASC, but Team PrISUm showed their strength during the grand prix event.

“We spent 24 hours a day for seven days rebuilding systems and growing as a team,” said Smeet Mistry, co project director in a July 13 Facebook post. “We learned and fully implemented a battery protection system over the span of 96 hours. We were forced to evaluate and validate almost the entire mechanical structure of the car and proved that we had put the time into engineering it instead of slapping it together, and we were forced to adapt to rapidly solve problems as they came up essentially on an hourly basis.”

But at the end of the day, ASC officials ruled that Team PrISUm would not be able to participate in the American Solar Challenge as a multi-occupant vehicle or as a demonstration vehicle. The team, as much as it hurt, agreed. Penumbra was not in a state that they could ensure the safety and reliability of the drivers and passengers on the open road.

The team carried on – in true Iowa State spirit and with a mission to perform more outreach with Penumbra, demonstrating the innovation the team had built into Penumbra.

“We received a massive amount of support during the grand prix from almost every team present and it was our turn to support them in the American Solar Challenge,” said Agostino LoBello, co project director, in the July 13 post.

LoBello and Mistry lead a team that wants to build a practical solar car that changes the paradigm of transportation. They strive to inspire future generations to pursue their passions through education. They are bringing that attitude to Farm Progress Show. Meet them and other team members while exploring Penumbra on the south lawn at the Iowa State exhibit during Farm Progress Show, Aug. 28-30.

Team PrISUm showing the Lander, Wyoming, community what is possible with solar energy. Photo credit, Team PrISUm.

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