WMU Sunseeker set for start of cross-country solar road race

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2012 Sunseeker team

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University's Sunseeker solar racing team is one of 13 college teams to qualify for the 2012 American Solar Challenge cross-country race, which begins July 14, in Rochester, N.Y., and ends July 21, in St. Paul, Minn.

The biennial race will cover more than 1,600 miles in eight Great Lakes states and will travel across Michigan on Tuesday, July 17--beginning the morning in Ann Arbor, then traveling to Lansing and on to Kalamazoo, where each team will spend at least an hour at a checkpoint at WMU's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. That event is open to the public and includes an opportunity for the general public to view the high-tech solar vehicles up close and meet team members from participating engineering schools.

Just 13 teams meet race requirements

To qualify for the event, race teams from around the nation had to complete scrutineering, which includes technical, safety and dynamic testing, as well as compete in a Formula Sun Grand Prix on an enclosed track at Monticello (N.Y.) Speedway. The WMU team came in third in the Formula Sun Grand Prix, with the University of Michigan and Iowa State University in first and second places, respectively.

Qualifying teams

  • Illinois State University
  • Iowa State University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Michigan State University
  • Oregon State University
  • Principia College
  • State University of New York-New Paltz
  • University of California-Berkeley
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of Montreal
  • Western Michigan University

Teams compete by bypassing traditional fuel tanks, pulling all of their power from the sun as they travel along normal highways. The 2012 event marks the 11th time since 1990 that a WMU team has participated in international solar race events featuring the best engineering schools from the United States and Canada. The University's team has finished in fifth, sixth place and twice in eighth place and has captured best design awards in post-race ceremonies. WMU is one of only a handful of schools in North America to have participated in all previous races.

Teams to stop at WMU

The WMU mid-day checkpoint is at the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences on WMU's Parkview Campus, which is located alongside U.S. 131 and at the intersection of Drake Road and Parkview Avenue. The checkpoint will open at 11 a.m. and close at 3:15 p.m. Free public parking is available in the parking ramp behind the east wing of the engineering complex.

Teams will arrive in Kalamazoo beginning at about noon, traveling down Gull Road from Richland. They will travel through the downtown area on Kalamazoo Avenue and follow the I-94 Business Loop along Stadium Drive to Drake Road. Racers will then take Drake Road directly into WMU's Parkview Campus.

After spending a minimum of one hour at WMU, teams will leave the campus heading east to Oakland Drive, south on Oakland to Shaver Road and taking Shaver to U.S. 131, where they will head south for the next leg of the race through northern Indiana and Illinois.

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