The Running of the Solar Derby – SolarCup Hessen 2012

This post was originally published in 2012. The tips and techniques explained may be outdated.

Friday afternoon at Königsplatz in Kassel. The sky is overcast and it’s drizzling. With ’Sun Rider’ printed on their t-shirts, our trainees huddle around a small solar car. Behind them, you can here remote-controlled cars squeaking around the race track. I’m at the SolarCup, a competition where teams from various schools and companies compete against each other with solar vehicles they have built themselves.

Juniorteam

The SMA Juniorteam with their Sun Rider

A Solar Race Without Sun

It rained the entire day. Of course, I wanted to find out if our car had a chance at all. Julian Sandrock explained that “the battery is fully charged. It can easily run for 10 minutes without the sun.“ The SMA trainee, becoming an electrician for devices and systems, is part of the junior team (SMA has two teams competing this year). Our solar car sluggishly made its way around the track, but didn’t quite finish the last lap. The battery was just too weak. “Thankfully they award points in other categories besides just the race,“ explained Kathrin Becker, one of Julian’s teammates who is a trainee in Sales. “Documentation and technique are also factored in.“ The junior team could easily earn extra points in the technique category, as the trainees created a remote-steering system using Bluetooth. Ullrich Eckhardt explained that “no other team here used Bluetooth.“ The trainer went on to say that the SolarCup is unique in that only trainees participate.

Solarcup 2012

The Solarcars starting in the competition.

Solar Cup – a Project that Highlights Independence and Responsibility

From mechanics to salesmen: in the SolarCup, trainees in all departments work together for a common goal. In various groups, they are responsible for the mechanics, electronics, control system and documentation. They lean to create and keep a time schedule and to work independently. Ullrich said with pride that „we leave the trainees alone and it works pretty well. They get to try out new technology.“ He only occasionally has to douse the flames. “It has to be realistic,“ he says with a grin. The model vehicles are equipped with solar panels that supply electricity. The apprentices were allowed to select the drive components on their own. The rules set limits only on the size of the model and the battery. Since January, the apprentices have spent long hours in their workshop fine-tuning and assembling their futuristic car. This race is the highlight of their project.
The award ceremony that afternoon made it clear that our teams’ entries were not among the fastest, although the senior team did take home first place for best construction.
Congratulations to both teams! You guys did great work!

Solarcars

Many Solarcars are substitute

Facts about the Hesse Solar Cup

– Educational competition hosted by the University of Kassel
– Presented by SMA, City Works and the City of Kassel
– Youth build solar-powered vehicles which race against each other•
– Categories: solar boats, solar robots, ultralight solar cars, remote-controlled solar cars
– Goal: increase interest in renewable energy and technical professions
– Has taken place once a year since 2002
– Information and guidelines: www.solarcup.de

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