Solar Powered Cars Circle the Track at Heartland Motorsports Park

College Students Prepare to Make Nearly 1000 Mile Journey
Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 6:46 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Students from colleges and universities from across the country will soon be racing toward New Mexico on a road trip powered by the sun!

“What’s cooler than racing 1000 miles from Independence Missouri to Santé Fe New Mexico once every couple of years just to test these designs,” says Rishi Mohan, Supporting Team Captain and Director of Operations for the team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

A dozen schools will make the journey in their all student built solar powered vehicles that will get them to the finish line of the five day race. The University of Kansas had accepted the challenge initially but has since had to exit the race and will not be participating in this years event.

Most are engineering students. They say they are looking forward to putting the books down and lifting up a solar panel.

“Being a book engineer and being good in school is only half of what it means to be an engineer,” says Mohan, “and the best way to get that other half is by competing in a design competition like this.”

To warm up for the big race, students rolled into the three-day Formula Sun Grand Prix here at heartland motorsports park. Teams had to go through a thorough “scrutineering” process to ensure each vehicle meets all the race rules.

Event coordinator Gail Lueck says the teams learn about much more than solar energy.

“It’s really good hands on experience that gives them practice in teamwork, problem solving, lots of that going on in this heat, and really just preparing them for their future careers.”

After working the kinks out in Topeka, students hit the road following the Santa Fe Trail. After the pandemic put last year’s event in park, they’re ready for the rubber to hit the road once again.

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