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Better Late Than Never

by Drew Wolanski

I first heard about Solar Car in my 3rd year when a member plugged the team in one of our mechanical engineering classes. At that point, I had been very frustrated with the lack of hands-on experience that the mechanical engineering curriculum provided. Joining Solar Car was like a breath of fresh air. Despite my lack of experience, my ideas and contributions were welcomed immediately. I have learned so many invaluable skills building this car, all the while having a blast with a great group of people.

Part of what I’ve loved about being on Solar Car has been my opportunity to get engaged with so many different aspects of the car. Since joining the team, I have taken leadership roles in aerobody design, composites R&D, and battery box design/production. To prepare for a significant leadership transition, we have started delegating more responsibility to younger members on the team. This is great because it allows first and second years to make valuable contributions, but it also means that they will have lots of questions. I have recently assumed an advising role within the team, helping members with whatever problems they run into with components of the car that I have experience with.

It’s exciting to see the car finally come together. We have spent so many hours on the whiteboard and CAD programs going through iteration after iteration of designs, but we are now well into the production phase and its truly amazing to see our ideas realized. We hope to finish the car in the next month, giving us sufficient time to test and troubleshoot issues ahead of the Formula Sun Grand Prix in Austin, TX this summer.

We are currently pushing to finish the aeroshell ahead of the March 30 fundraiser. The team is fairly inexperienced when it comes to carbon fiber manufacturing which has resulted in some rather boxy features where smoother curves would be preferred. The nose cone and canopy are two key components that we cannot afford to produce with our previous layup methods. It has been exciting to learn new production methods like CNC mold milling and using new materials to produce elegant curves on our aerobody.

Working with this team has developed some of my most useful skills for a career in engineering. While the engineering skills that I have learned (designing, simulating, machining, etc.) are certainly valuable, I am most appreciative for the communication skills that I have grown. There are so many different facets to this project, and making sure that everyone is on the same page is an incredibly challenging task. The teamwork skills that I have developed will be essential for my job next year where all projects are executed by teams of engineers.

Name: Drew Wolanski

Year: 4th Year

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Team position: Senior Mechanical Team Advisor

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