Solar Car Team, Including Sarah Spitzer of Island, Wins Again
“The race was great. We finished in first place,” said Sarah Spitzer, a member of the solar car team from Mackinac Island, “and we finished 10 hours in front of second place. Also, the two previous cars finished within an hour of each other, so it shows how close these things can be.”
The Michigan team completed the course in 44 hours, 36 minutes, and 21 seconds. In second place was Iowa State, with 54 hours, 55 minutes, and three seconds, followed by Principia College of St. Louis, Missouri.
The race lasted eight days and traversed eight states, starting in New York, through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and ending in Minnesota.
This year, the judges for the American Solar Challenge were strict on the rules, Ms. Spitzer said, and eager to hand out penalties, requiring the Michigan team to race carefully. On the last day of the race, after placing first in the four stages of the race, the team decided to slow down to prevent any accidents for the final stage.
“It’s not just about driving,” she said. “It’s also about strategy. We had a lot of time and the last day was really slippery, so we decided to take it slow. We decided it’s best if we keep our car and our driver safe.”
The team finished the last day in fourth, but had enough time to spare over the course of the race to finish first.
The judges were also scrupulous when qualifying, so members of the Michigan Solar Car team helped other solar car teams get through the qualifying rounds by assisting in tune-ups and checking electrical and computer systems.
“We want our competition to do well, so we can say we compete against top notch engineering teams,” Ms. Spizter said.
Ms. Spitzer served as one of three microelectrical engineers and as the team’s head of navigation during the race. Other microelectrical engineers on the team include Jacob Zylema and Evan Fletcher, the division leader.
The next goal for the team is to compete and win in the World Solar Challenge in Australia, scheduled for 2013. They have competed in the race multiple times in the past, but the first prize in the world still eludes the solar car team. While race teams are chosen every year, and could consist of new members, Ms. Spitzer said she would be ready to help her team in Australia if she is offered the chance.