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The Homestretch: Getting the Wheels Rolling

by Sandesh Banskota

Prior to coming to college, I was aware of solar car racing and wanted to be involved with it. However, having no background in the field, I was hesitant to seek out the club once I was at UVA. I had my first direct encounter with the team when they hosted a SolidWorks workshop open to the general student population in the second week of my first year. At the workshop, I recognized how dedicated this team was to ensuring a collective learning experience for all team members. Building a solar car is an incredibly tough engineering and financial challenge; my team members and I have learned a lot in the process. However, we will be satisfied and our goals will be met only after we have transferred the extent of our skills and knowledge to newer members and we finally finish building our car. I am really passionate about this team and I enjoy working on it with my team members every day.

At the very core, I am an engineer. I design and manufacture components for our car. As one of the leaders on the team, I make key engineering decisions on the mechanical aspects of the car. I make sure that all aspects of vehicle design and production are on track in order for us to meet our project deadlines. My biggest responsibility is to make sure we get the car built while ensuring that everyone is learning and engaged in the process.

After a couple of years in the design phase, we are finally moving quickly through production. We have critical components of the car, such as the aerobody, chassis, and suspension, manufactured. Now, we are in the process of changing a few components to accommodate our new motor, and finalizing a few other designs for manufacturing. Other than that, we are mostly in the production stage. We hope to share our engineering process in blog posts in the future to disseminate what we have learned and to be a resource to aspiring engineers everywhere.

In Photo: Zach Khan, Sandesh Banskota, Bilge Batsukh, Emma Yeats, Tiago Magalhaes, Photo Creds: Wei Wang

Our team is really excited about this month. We believe we can get all parts required to put the car on wheels manufactured by the end of this month. The hard work put in by our team is really paying off.

HERE ARE PICTURES OF US DRILLING HOLES ON THE CHASSIS:

SAFETY COMES FIRST (IN PHOTO: ZACH KHAN, BILGE BATSUKH, ERIC CHOI)

As I have mentioned before, building a solar car is an incredibly tough challenge. As engineers on the team, we have to make sure that all designs meet safety standards and are financially feasible. Although these constraints are found in virtually all engineering projects, they are pushed to the extreme with solar car racing, since we are so concerned about the efficiency of the car. To be able to solve these challenges, we have to go through a lot of training. A lot of the skills and knowledge that we have to acquire are not taught in classrooms. These skills are highly sought after professionally, which is why our members go on to great opportunities in research and corporate internships. I can attribute my success outside of UVA directly to the skills I have gained as an engineer on the team.

We are a family here at the Solar Car team at UVA. Our operations team has done a great job in organizing trips to amazing locations here in Charlottesville such as Carter’s Mountain for apple picking and hiking at Humpback Rock (it was freezing cold). Undoubtedly, this club is one of the best academic and social experience this university has to offer.

Name: Sandesh Banskota

Year: Class of 2020

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Minor: Computer Science

Team position: Mechanical Co-Lead

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