Do you like fast cars? Have you ever seen a racecar powered only by the sun?
Believe it or not, solar-powered racecars do exist, and they can be quite zippy – getting up to 99 mph running on nothing but sunlight! Cambridge University Eco Racing, or CUER, are a team of young engineers who build their own solar-powered cars. Then they take them to Australia to race in the World Solar Challenge – a 3000 km cross-country rally thought the Australian outback, which is held every two years. The photo above shows Endeavour – the car that the team raced in the 2009 and 2011 Challenges.
For a team used to rainy Cambridge, it much have been a big change driving across the heat of the Aussie desert. But believe it or not, it rained on the race! ”The hardest thing was having the weather turn on us. We were driving well. Then, when we reached South Australia, it started raining!” says team member Lucy Fielding. That must have been frustrating – but the race definitely had its high points, too: “The race is a real adventure – we are pioneers”, says Lucy. “Crowds gathered along the highways in Darwin to wave us off, then there was the desolation and emptiness of the outback. And finally the euphoria of arriving in Port Augusta and the realisation that we had crossed a continent – there was a real feeling of pride.”
This year, CUER reckon they stand a good chance of winning the race with their latest model, codenamed Daphne. They’re still building it, but when the car is complete in time to race in October this year, it will look something like this:
That’s not like any other car I’ve ever seen! Its aerodynamic shape was inspired by nature. And the really clever thing about it is that the solar panels on the back can move around to catch the sun.
And amazingly, the car uses only the same amount of power as your hairdryer!
So could CUER win the Challenge for Britain this year? “Our mission is to finish number 1 on the podium in 2013”, says Keno, the team manager. But it’s not just about winning – team member Lucy Osborne says it’s an amazing feeling knowing that their project gets people interested in engineering, and thinking about the future of sustainable technology.
If you want to meet some of the CUER team, you can find them at the Science Museum this weekend from March 8-10. You can see Endeavor, and even sit in it! And talk to the team about how you could be an engineer one day, too.
And if you love all things fast – cars, planes, helicopters, even atom-smashing particle accelerators like the one at CERN – there’s loads of other stuff to see and people to meet at the museum this weekend.
You could meet Leena Gade – she is Chief Engineer at Audi Motorsport, and in 2011 she became the first female engineer to win the famous Le Mans race. Leena won again in 2012, this time with a hybrid electric car called the R18 E-tron Quattro. That was the first time a hybrid had won a motor race – it’s safe to say Leena has shown just what hybrid cars can do.
Leena is from a real engineering family – her younger sister Teena is a rally engineer at Skoda Motorsport. It just goes to show engineering isn’t just for the boys!
Thereare loads of women in engineering these days – in all kinds of places. In fact, one of the Army’s most senior engineers is Major Steph McKenzie. Steph is the commander of 73 Aviation Company. She is in charge of ninety military engineers and technicians who work to keep the Army’s aircraft safe and in good condition.
These amazing women, and loads of other cool scientists and engineers will be at the Science Museum for our High Performance festival. If you’re around, come along and say hello to them – and maybe find out how you can follow in their footsteps!
Corrinne Burns and Ling Lee work at London’s Science Museum,
where they develop exhibitions about modern science, medicine and engineering.
Likes: Writing, reading, twitter and chocolate
Dislikes: Negative and angry people