RU Students Get a Hands-On Lesson in Sustainable Technology with their Self-Made Solar Car.

A team of Rutgers University-New Brunswick students traveled to Austin, Texas to race their solar car from July 3 to 6. Despite their best efforts, technical issues before the start of the race prevented the team from competing. The Rutgers team was not the only to encounter technical difficulties. 

Although the students did not compete, the Rutgers team viewed the race as a valuable experience and looks to the future with optimism.

Thomas Brinckman,  vice president of Business Operations for Rutgers Solar, said “the team members did learn quite a bit and had a lot of teams helping us out, so it was still an amazing week for us in Austin. We are really looking forward to what is next for the team.”

The team built and designed the solar-panel covered car to compete against 24 other colleges and universities at the race, including schools from the United States and Canada. The race, Formula Sun Gran Prix at the Circuit of the Americas, occurs annually. This was the team’s first time using a solar car built by students of the School of Engineering. The project began six months ago with a donated chassis and car body. 

A wide, flat, and aerodynamically curved vehicle, the car bears resemblance to a portion of an airplane wing with a cockpit placed on the top. 

Paveena Sachdeva, a Rutgers Business School student and accounting major from Princeton Junction, is one of eight members of the team who traveled to Texas for the race.

“I joined the team because I am very big into sustainability, and this is an area that I can use my business knowledge while promoting sustainability at Rutgers, across the country and internationally,” said Ms. Sachdeva. “For that, I am extremely proud. It’s a really special group.”  

The Rutgers team comprises students who specialize in a wide range of disciplines, including students from the business and engineering schools and the Mason Gross School of the Arts. 

Ms. Sachdeva and other business students were responsible for the team’s marketing and fundraising efforts. This was a vital part of the project and helped pay for the technology used to build the car. They also handled logistical work, managing details of the car’s cross-country transport and bringing the car to New Jersey public schools to promote sustainable energy and demonstrate to students what higher education can help them accomplish. 

Mason Gross students helped marketing and outreach efforts by managing essential photo, video and design components. Engineering students built the car, redesigned the interior, repaired the solar array and installed data collections among other systems necessary to make the car sustainable and smart.  

The finished vehicle has over 400 rechargeable lithium battery cells that are powered by 250 solar cells. In peak sunlight, the cells are capable of producing 110 watts of power. Using wattage no higher than that of a hairdryer, the motor can reach 65 mph. 

Alexander Sanducu, chief engineer and project manager of the car, also attended the event in Austin. A resident of North Brunswick and a recent graduate from the Rutgers School of Engineering with a degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering, Mr. Sanducu will continue to study at Rutgers in a masters program. He and his engineering crew worked tirelessly leading up to the competition. In his opinion, the team’s efficiency was largely due to their diverse variety of talents. 

“The business team pushed us out of our comfort zone for the better, by telling us how important it is to show off our work and spread the word about sustainability. Listening to other perspectives has made us a better team and will help us no matter what we do in the future,” Mr. Sanducu said.

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