College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Team PrISUm competes in the American Solar Challenge

Update: July 20, 2012

AMES, Iowa – Team PrISUm was feeling good at the start of Friday’s racing: “The sun is back today!” the team tweeted.

Sunny and hot conditions have been very good to Hyperion, Iowa State’s solar race car. In steamy conditions that have overheated the battery packs of other cars, Hyperion has used its heat-tolerant batteries to drive up to a solid second place.

And so, as the sun rose toward midday on Friday, the team ran Hyperion at 50-plus mph. But when the team lost real-time battery and performance data because of a glitch in the chase van, the team opted for a more conservative drive into the stage stop in La Crosse, Wis.

It was the seventh day of the American Solar Challenge, an eight-day, 1,650-mile race for student-designed and student-built cars powered by nothing but the sun and little electric motors. Hyperion had a solid hold on second place, no need to risk running the battery pack dry.

That made Hyperion the fourth car to drive into La Crosse. But the overall standings remain the same: Michigan leads, Iowa State is second and Principia College is third.

Visit ISU News Service for a full update.

July 19, 2012

AMES, Iowa – Thursday morning was full of sunshine and speed limits for Hyperion, Iowa State University’s solar race car.

But when afternoon clouds moved over Wisconsin, Team PrISUm had to slow its car for a few hours.

Even so, the students of Iowa State’s solar car team strengthened their hold on second place in the American Solar Challenge, an eight-day, 1,650-mile race for student-designed and student-built solar race cars. On day six of the challenge, Hyperion rolled into the Verona, Wis., checkpoint about an hour behind first-place Michigan and about an hour ahead of third-place Principia College.

As the team reported on twitter (@Team_PrISUm), “This afternoon has been very overcast. This has slowed Hyperion significantly.”

And why is that? How can Hyperion race with Michigan all morning under sunny skies, but has to drop back when the clouds roll in?

Well, said Evan Stumpges, the team’s project director and a May graduate in mechanical engineering, Michigan chose a different kind of battery for its car. The Michigan batteries have a higher energy density and hold more power for the cloudy days.

Read the full update here.



AMES, Iowa – Nearly 200 miles in stifling heat wasn’t a problem for Iowa State University’s solar race car on Wednesday.

But that wasn’t the case for most of the 11 cars competing in this year’s American Solar Challenge, an eight-day, 1,650-mile race for student-designed and student-built solar race cars.

Six of the teams had enough problems on the road they had to load their cars into trailers and haul them to the stage stop in Normal, Ill. But Hyperion, Iowa State’s solar car, cruised right in and jumped from third to second place on the scoreboard.

Visit ISU News Service for more information.


July 17, 2012

AMES, Iowa – Hyperion spent most of Tuesday racing down the road at the speed limit – including some stretches at 55 mph.

That made Hyperion, Iowa State’s student-designed and student-built solar race car, the second car into the American Solar Challenge’s checkpoint in Kalamazoo, Mich.

The speed allowed Team PrISUm to make up a 36-minute deficit to Principia College. The team spent the rest of the day doing its best to cut into its 2 ½-hour deficit to the second-place University of Minnesota. The University of Michigan continues to lead the race.

“We had another great day,” said Evan Stumpges, Team PrISUm’s project director and a May graduate in mechanical engineering.

It turns out Hyperion thrives in the scorching weather parked over the Midwest right now. Stumpges said the conditions are great for converting sunlight into electrical power. And the team’s battery pack isn’t prone to overheating, a common problem in solar car racing.

“The battery pack is handling the heat quite well,” Stumpges said. “The thermal design has been optimized to withstand higher temperatures. A lot of teams have been battling the upper thresholds of their batteries.”

Read more from ISU News Service.


July 16, 2012

AMES, Iowa – Working with sunny skies and a fully repaired solar race car, Team PrISUm made up some time on Monday.

Hyperion, the solar race car designed and built by Iowa State students, passed two teams on the road and moved up to fourth place at the end of day three of the eight-day, 1,650-mile American Solar Challenge.

Iowa State students will try to break back into the top three when the challenge heads across Michigan on Tuesday. The Iowa State team is about 36 minutes behind the third-place team from Principia College. The race leaders, Michigan and Minnesota, are hours ahead.

Read a full update here.


July 15, 2012

AMES, Iowa – Team PrISUm struggled all day on Sunday.

First, the designers and builders of Iowa State’s solar race car started day two of the 1,650-mile American Solar Challenge with a low battery pack because of cloudy and rainy charging conditions. Then they left the start line in the middle of thunderstorms. Then the wet conditions caused radio problems. And then Hyperion, this year’s solar race car, went wide in a turn on an interstate on-ramp and hit a curb.

The impact snapped the lower A-arm of the right-front suspension and damaged the aerodynamic fairing covering the wheel. It took the team about an hour to make enough repairs to get back in the race.

The best news of the day is that nobody was injured in the accident.

“This is kind of a bummer,” said Evan Stumpges, the team’s project director and a May graduate in mechanical engineering. “This is the first day of facing some hardships, but it gives us some challenges to overcome.”

Read more about Team PrISUm’s challenges here.


July 12, 2012

AMES, Iowa – Thursday’s scoreboard makes it very clear: Team PrISUm has designed and built a fast and solid solar race car that keeps getting better.

During the three-day Formula Sun Grand Prix around the Monticello Motor Club in New York, Iowa State University’s solar car team recorded daily totals of 125, 146 and 155 laps. Thursday’s performance was just three laps short of the best daily performance of the entire race. The team also turned the fastest lap of the race: 2:18.

The team’s 426 laps around the 1.6-mile track was good for second place. The University of Michigan – winners of the past four American cross-country races and the third-place finisher in last year’s world race in Australia – won with 449 laps.

“It feels great,” said Evan Stumpges, the Team PrISUm project director and a May graduate in mechanical engineering. “We’re in a good position to start the cross-country race on Saturday.”

Read the full update from ISU News Service.


July 11, 2012

AMES, Iowa – Team PrISUm is cruising at the Formula Sun Grand Prix.

On Tuesday, day two of the three-day qualifying race for the cross-country American Solar Challenge, Iowa State’s solar car team turned another 146 laps around the Monticello Motor Club in New York.

That meant there were no electrical problems. No mechanical issues. The only real problem was a blown tire that team members quickly changed at the side of the track.

Things went so well, in fact, the team’s John O’Grady had time to help the University of Kentucky’s team weld new suspension pieces. The Iowa Staters even used a late-night tweet to offer assistance to other teams: “8 teams currently qualified for ASC 2012. Hoping to get a few more tomorrow. Hey teams, let us know if you need a hand with anything.”

Read the full article from ISU News Service and watch this video for more information on the solar car: Team PrISUm Gears Up For Competition.


July 10, 2012

AMES, Iowa – Hyperion, Iowa State’s solar race car, cruised most of Tuesday and qualified for the cross-country American Solar Challenge with some laps to spare.

Team PrISUm – the Iowa State students who design and build cars that run on sunshine and little electric motors – raced 125 laps around the 1.6-mile track at the Monticello Motor Club in New York. The performance met the one-day qualifying standard of 105 laps.

The performance also put Team PrISUm in second place after day one of the three-day Formula Sun Grand Prix. The track race sets the starting grid for the 1,650-mile, July 14-21 American Solar Challenge from Rochester, N.Y., to St. Paul, Minn.

Visit the ISU News Service for a full update.


July 6, 2012

AMES, Iowa – Team PrISUm’s latest solar race car is already ahead of the last one.PrISUm 2012

Over the past week, the team has taken Hyperion, this year’s cross-country race car, out for several test runs, including a trip to Grinnell.

That long test run was huge for the student-engineers working on their $330,000 project. That test drive told the students their aerodynamic ideas are making a difference, that their target speed should be about 45 mph and that they still need to do some tweaking to get the most out of their car.

Two years ago, when student-designed and student-built solar-powered cars raced from Broken Arrow, Okla., to Naperville, Ill., Iowa State students weren’t able to do much pre-race testing of the car they named Anthelion. One consequence was persistent electrical problems that slowed the car to an 11th-place finish.

Now, already, “we’ve had a fairly successful run,” said Evan Stumpges, the team’s project director. “It’s nice to have some miles in Ames before we head out.”

The team’s first stop on its race calendar is the Formula Sun Grand Prix at the Monticello Motor Club in Monticello, N.Y. The team will be there July 6-12 to go through technical inspections and try to turn enough laps to qualify for the cross-country American Solar Challenge.

The July 14-21 challenge will take solar car teams 1,650 miles from Rochester, N.Y., to St. Paul, Minn. Team PrISUm is one of 18 teams registered for the race.

Read more about Team PrISUm from the Iowa State University News Service.