Illinois State University took second place in a Texas car race, but it wasn't your average competition. These cars were powered by the sun. A group of students participated in the national Formula Sun Grand Prix, a 3-day race involving only solar cars. ISU's participants were required to build and drive their own vehicle. Junior Cameron Knight, a driver and head of the design team, says it was one of the most intense races the team has ever seen.
"It was a hard won race," he says. "We've never had anything similar to that experience--and most of the officials haven't either--where, with 40 minutes left in the race, you have three teams that are all tied for first place. It was definitely a nailbiter."
Knight says this competition reveals what solar power is really capable of.
"I think that it helps show that it's viable, that it's not just some crackpot dream that sits in a lab all day," he says. "We can have race cars that can run very, very consistently over multiple days that just run on the sun. It's kind of like magic."
Many of Knight's teammates study physics and renewable energy, he says, so the race is a culmination of what's important to them. He says the main reason he decided to come to ISU was because of the team, and he probably wouldn't have attended if it didn't exist.
ISU's vehicle, known as Mercury IV, trailed behind Oregon State and finished just ahead of Iowa State. Team Mecury has been building and racing solar cars since 2005.
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