WAMPUM, Pa.—Appalachian State University's solar vehicle team, Team Sunergy, has taken third place in the Formula Sun Grand Prix at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex in Wampum, Pennsylvania.
Under heavy cloud cover and some rain, the team completed the race on July 28 with a total of 414 laps, behind Principia College with 454 laps and University of Michigan, which took first place with 518 laps.
In 2015, Appalachian's team entered the race but did not qualify to race on the track. This year, the team met all qualifications and was in the first group to be allowed on the track to race.
Appalachian's team is led by Dan Blakeley, a graduate student from Olympia, Washington who is pursuing dual degrees in engineering physics and appropriate technology. Blakeley developed the idea to build the car and enter the race, and has been leading the team for two years. "To come to an event like this after two years of countless hours of work and dedication... you just can't describe it," said Blakeley. "It's exciting to see how well our car performs against a bunch of other amazing schools, universities and colleges from other parts of the world."
Jon Linck, a senior from Raleigh, North Carolina majoring in appropriate technology, serves as the pit crew boss. "We didn't really know what to expect out here on the track," said Linck, "but [the car] really exceeded our expectations. Now we can look forward to heading to Ohio and starting our 1,900-mile journey out west. Hopefully we can apply all the work we have done here to the [American Solar Challenge]."
Drivers for Team Sunergy are Blakeley, senior physics major David "Duvey" Rudow from Asheville, North Carolina, senior physics major Logan Ward from Waynesville, North Carolina and senior music industry studies major Lindsay Rudisill from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Other team members include junior physics major Jake Barnes from Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Pedro Franco from Belo Horizonte, in Minas Gerais, Brazil, who just completed his masters' in sustainable technology engineering; sophomore sustainable technology major James Furr from Charlotte, North Carolina; senior finance and banking major Andrew Grimes from Raleigh, North Carolina; senior physics major Abby Hastings from King George, Virginia; senior physics major Jongmin Na from Hickory, North Carolina, and senior sustainable technology major Bailey Winecoff,from Charlotte, North Carolina.
The teams began the track race after passing a series of grueling inspections and vehicle and driver qualifying assessments called "scrutineering" that includes solar array inspection, battery testing, structural and mechanical vehicle components, and driving tests to verify vehicle stability and braking capability. All teams that passed the scrutineering and completed 128 1.6-mile laps in one day or 192 laps in two consecutive days have advanced to the American Solar Challenge, an eight-day 1,975-mile road course traveling through seven states from Brecksville, Ohio, to Hot Springs, South Dakota.
Appalachian's solar vehicle team is the only North Carolina team in the competition and the only team in the South to qualify for the American Solar Challenge. This is the first time a North Carolina solar team has competed in this race.
"I honestly think we have some of the best students at Appalachian State University on this team," said Blakely. "They are already making sure we are ready for the next event. That's what they do – they constantly look to see how we can be better as a team and also how they can help others. If we had broken down on the side of the road today and didn't make it to stand on the podium, I wouldn't care, because we still did everything we came to this race planning to do."
Still, victory is sweet for Blakeley and his team, who after holding steady in third place for two days, began the race in fourth place today. "We made a couple mistakes yesterday," said Blakeley, "but ultimately, being consistent brought us back to third place, so not only do we get to be on the podium but we get to enter the cross-country race with our heads held high."
An award ceremony will take place at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, July 29 at the Cuyahoga Valley Career Center in Brecksville, Ohio. The event is open to the public, and all qualifying solar vehicles will be on display before beginning the American Solar Challenge on Saturday, July 30.
For more information on the competition, team status and results, visit the 2016 American Solar Challenge/Formula Sun Grand Prix website at