Sun, sun, sun, here it comes
Let’s get small
Ian Bakker, team driver and high-voltage engineer, prepares to depart the U-M team’s camp in Ti Tree, Australia, on Day Three of racing. The team had been playing catch-up since starting in 32nd place on Day One. Yes, 32nd place. Bakker is an electrical engineering undergraduate student in the College of Engineering.
The team had a rocky start to the race, literally at the back of the pack. Electrical issues had shut Astrum down in the middle of the speed test that determines the racers’ order at the starting line. The car that finishes this “hot lap” in the shortest time starts the main event first. Because the U-M team couldn’t finish its lap, it started behind 31 other cars.
Back in the gameWhen the team arrived at the control stop in Dunmara at the end of the first day, they had rocketed into sixth place. “We could not afford to mope around and just let stuff happen to us,” says Leo Intelisano, a sophomore majoring in computer engineering and one of the team’s microsystems engineers. Here, Astrum, travels down the Stuart Highway south of Alice Springs, Australia.
By the end of day three, Michigan was just under 50 miles behind the third-place team, Brunel. But Astrum’s battery was only 11 percent full, and the weather forecast called for high winds and cloudy skies. To compensate, the team planned to move slowly during the sunny part of the day to refuel. Then when the clouds came in, they would squeeze all the juice they could get out of the battery
Luckily, Astrum’s strategists spent the entire year preparing for the competition by studying passing situations with mathematical models. As a result, the team was well-equipped to adjust its speed and overtake car after car as the race progressed.
Astrum took off at some of the fastest speeds in the 2023 competition — between 53 and 62 mph. “Placing fourth in the world is fantastic,” said Will Jones, the team’s race manager and a senior in mechanical engineering. “This team worked so hard and it’s so validating to finish where we did.” Here, Astrum zooms along the Stuart Highway south of Erldunda, Australia.
Strong finishThe U-M students’ resilience didn’t go unnoticed. “Against so many odds, the 2023 team looked the possibility of failure in the face and pushed onward,” wrote alum Andrew Warner on LinkedIn. Warner was on the U-M Solar Car Team in 1993 and is now the president of Wartech Engineering. “This is an experience that will likely shape how they respond to obstacles in the future, in life, and in business.”