On the road with Sunsetters
American Solar Challenge 2001
Springfield, IL to Rolla, MO
Monday, July 16

by Tim Barth and Eric Bradley

The solar car caravan left the Springfield checkpoint at 8:13 am on a cloudy, dreary morning. Having used a considerable amount of energy getting out of Chicago, we proceeded at a slower pace of 25 MPH, but the clouds did not let up. After about two hours of progressively slower raycing and a battery pack approaching "empty", our strategy team decided it best to pull over and charge. Gathering information from the internet and our scout vehicle, our strategy team decided we should wait out the clouds, even though other more experienced teams were whizzing by us with their solar cars in trailer, presumably to find better sun ahead in St. Louis. It turns out that Bill Totenhagen and Jason Gates, our strategists, made an excellent call since the sun came out shortly providing three very good hours of charging, bringing our batteries back up to a manageable level.

Rolla, MO is a staged stop, meaning that we were required to make this stop by 6:00 pm that evening or risk severe penalty including possible disqualification from the remainder of the rayce. In order to make this stop, we allowed the batteries to charge as much as possible from the sun, then quickly packed everything up and trailered the remainder of the segment into Rolla, MO. We arrived to a very large crowd and well-hosted event at the University of Missouri-Rolla campus. As we harnessed more of the sun's energy, we noted that most of the teams in our class had trailered in either before or after us. We finished the first two days of the rayce in fourth place in our class, directly behind Minnesota State University-Mankato, but ahead of University of North Dakota. We start tomorrow on the longest stage of the race--1800 miles in 9 days across deserts and mountains to Barstow, CA.

NOTE: For additional pictures please visit www.ekarg.com

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