Walnut Solar Car wins first place at nationals

For the first time since 2005, Walnut Solar Car won first place in the 2017 Solar Car Challenge at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas from July 15-23.

The off-campus team of 14 Walnut and Diamond Bar High School students competed against 40 teams across the country, including Staten Island, New York and the Bahamas.

“At awards, I was ecstatic. I knew that not only was it a huge achievement for the team, it was a huge achievement for our advisers,” senior captain Jeremy Lim said. “I think that we finally have become one of the elite teams of the Solar Car Challenge.”

After checking in the first day, the team spent three days doing a technical inspection of the cars, known as “scrutineering,” in which the race officials ensured the safety and legality of the solar cars. The team then raced around the speedway from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the following four days.

“We didn’t realize we had potential right on the first day, so [winning first place] was kind of a shock to all of us,” senior officer Kelly Huang said. “But before the first day of the race, we were all really nervous and anxious about the race because the car wasn’t working. It wasn’t until the evening before the race when we found out that it worked.”

This year, the team used aluminum sheet metal to build the car instead of aluminum or steel pipes and shrink wrap they used in the previous years. The team also disassembled a motorcycle for a more efficient radial flux motor rather than the cheaper direct current brush motor they used before.

“Before, we would try to go safe and cheap. The aluminum or steel bars and shrink wrap weren’t really aerodynamic, and it was also pretty heavy and bulky. But this year, the aluminum sheet metal gave us the freedom to make very aerodynamic shapes and made our car very light,” Huang said. “We spent one and a half years building the car that won first place and had to rivet every inch of it. It was very tiresome but it was worth it in the end.”

The team plans on participating in next year’s Solar Car Challenge, a road race from Texas to California lasting for seven days. To prepare, the team will be recruiting new members from Walnut and Diamond Bar High School through its website in mid-September.

“Hopefully, we can keep our first place. There are some technical improvements that can be done [to] the car, and hopefully we can learn more this upcoming year. We hope to see new members [take] interest in any area, really devote themselves into learning a certain field or gain certain skills, [and to be] willing to contribute to the team and have an open mind,” senior member Anson Huang said.

By Olivia Chiang, Coverage Lead
Photos courtesy of Jeremy Lim