University of Calgary solar car visits Ponoka Elementary

University of Calgary Solar Team member Mico Madamesila explains the finer points of solar car building to a student at Ponoka Elementary School on May 13 as a part of a central Alberta tour for the prize-winning team.

University of Calgary Solar Team member Mico Madamesila explains the finer points of solar car building to a student at Ponoka Elementary School on May 13 as a part of a central Alberta tour for the prize-winning team.

ADAM JACKSON/Ponoka News

A marvel of modern technology was on display at Ponoka Elementary School last week.

On May 13, the University of Calgary Solar Team visited the school with their latest creation — the Schulich Axiom solar car.

The vehicle, which took nine months to design and nine months to build, has been on a tour to many schools in the area in preparation for their next competition — the World Solar Challenge in October.

The World Solar Challenge is held in Australia and stretches from Darwin, on the northern tip, to Adelaide in the south. The total distance of the race is a mind-boggling 3,000 kilometres.

Since its creation in 2009, the Schulich Axiom has competed in the American Solar Challenge 1,770-kilometre race, placing sixth overall and earning numerous other awards for that competition.

The solar team at the university consists of 40 students in various disciplines, from accounting to mechanics. The race team that stays with the vehicle during the race is a team of 11.

“It’s entirely student-run,” said project co-chair and business manager Brandon Heenan.

The idea behind taking the vehicle to the schools around Alberta is to give the race team an opportunity to work out race tweaks such as bathroom stops, cooking and general driving for the vehicle, as well as to educate children on sustainable energy.

“We need to make sure that everything is top notch on our tour,” said Heenan.

The vehicle is fully roadworthy, has a valid vehicle identification number and will receive license plates sometime within the next month. It can reach a top speed of 130 km/h.

The team was having electrical problems with the vehicle on May 13, so they were unable to drive to or from the school, but the students were given ample opportunity to ask questions about the vehicle and about sustainable energy.

Many students learned about technologies such as solar cells and lithium-ion batteries as well as aerodynamics.

The budget for the team is $650,000 and that covers building the vehicle, competitions and engaging with the community. Their funds are received through sponsorship from energy companies.

Raw materials alone, the vehicle is worth $110,000.