Illinois State University’s Solar Car Team placed second in the 2013 Formula Sun Grand Prix, a national solar car race held in June in Austin, Texas. Seven graduate and undergraduate students from the Departments of Technology, Physics, and Economics worked together to successfully represent Illinois State at this national event.

The team began work the morning of June 24 getting the car ready for inspection. Illinois State was the first team to complete scrutineering, an intense few days of inspection, which granted them the pole position on the starting grid. Pole position is when the car is at the forefront of the starting grid on race day, placing the team name at the top of the leaderboard. The group spent the next couple of days preparing for the race and aiding other teams in preparing their cars for testing.

“The actual race began on June 27, and we spent 24 hours racing on the track over the course of three days, finishing on (June) 29 at 5 p.m.,” explained Cameron Knight, president of the Illinois State Solar Car Team and a student in the Department of Physics. “There were three teams (Illinois State University, Oregon State University, and University of Iowa) tied for first with 40 minutes left in the race, and another team, Iowa State University, was gaining quickly on the leaders.”

The excitement wasn’t over yet. “Our car blew a tire with 25 minutes left due to track debris piercing the tread, and we completed a tire change on the track in less than five minutes after the incident,” Knight said. “That was enough for Oregon State to gain the lead by one lap, and in the end Iowa was about 4 seconds from completing their lap and tying us in second place.”

Illinois State took pictures on the winners’ podium along with Iowa and Oregon and brought home the second-place trophy.

“The race was definitely a nail biter,” Knight said. “I’ve never been part of a race that was so closely contested that close to the finish. Many of the officials said it was the most competitive race they had been a part of.”

“Going into race weekend, I knew we would be really competitive, but the amount of success that we had over larger teams with more experience was amazing.”

Illinois State beat out schools such as Iowa State University, Northwestern University, and Western Michigan University.

This win was largely due to the high quality of teamwork on the Illinois State Solar Car Team. “Our personnel were exceptional,” Knight said. “We were all able to diagnose and solve the few problems we had, and we worked so well with each other.”

“I couldn’t be more proud of how our team rose to the challenge to achieve this level of success.”

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