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Sunseeker damaged, eliminated in solar race

July 13, 2008

KALAMAZOO--A gust of wind that lifted and detached Sunseeker's fragile solar array during the car's final qualifying event ended Western Michigan University's participation in the 2008 American Solar Challenge cross-country race.

WMU's all new vehicle had successfully completed all of the pre-race inspections and was part way through the required 60 laps of track testing when the gust struck, lifting the array and damaging both solar cells and wiring.

"There was not enough time left to fix the car and complete the required laps, so we were not able to qualify," said team advisor Abraham Poot.

Poot pointed to what he called "an extraordinary outpouring of good will" from the other teams involved in this year's race, as engineering students from across the nation rushed to offer help to the WMU team, which has never missed a race since the biennial event began in 1990.

"There were offers of materials and body work from everywhere," Poot said. "The University of Michigan team sent one of its members over to help test and determine the damage to our solar cells. Other teams using the same types of solar cells and batteries jumped in to help. But there just wasn't enough time left."

The good will continued as other teams prepared for the July 13 start of the race. When Sunseeker team captain David Ludens made it known that WMU team members would be available to help other teams over the course of the race, five of the most competitive teams extended invitations to members of the Sunseeker squad to travel with their teams.

Two of Sunseeker's advisors and three team members will drive Sunseeker from checkpoint to checkpoint along the 2,400 mile race, and at each location it will be on display for members of the public to see and learn about what goes into a solar vehicle. Ten WMU engineering students will join the traveling teams of the University of Michigan; Iowa State, Northwestern and Waterloo universities; and the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

The Sunseeker team plans to continue its race blog during the race with team members reporting on their experiences with the teams with which they are working. Those updates can be found at www.wmich.edu/sunseeker.

The North American Solar Challenge is a collegiate solar race that
covers the mid sections of two nations with race teams pulling power
only from the sun. The race began in Plano, Texas, near Dallas, and
ends July 22 in the Canadian city of Calgary, Alberta. Originally,
24 teams registered to compete. Only 15 made it through a week of
pre-race testing, known as scrutineering, to qualify for the race.

On their way to Calgary, teams will go through race checkpoints in
McAlester, Okla.; Neosho, Mo.; Topeka, Kan.; Omaha, Neb.; Sioux
Falls, S.D.; Fargo, N.D.; and the Canadian cities of Winnipeg and
Brandon in Manitoba; Regina, Saskatchewan; and Medicine Hat,

For more information about the race, go online to www.americansolarchallenge.org. For information about WMU's Sunseeker project, visit www.wmich.edu/sunseeker.

Sunseeker team members and their current assignments are:

Sunseeker vehicle transportation team
Dr. John Kapenga, team advisor
Steve Mohney, team advisor
David Ludens, team captain, April graduate from Portage, Mich.
Ian Smith, team co-captain, a computer science graduate student from Mattawan, Mich.
Timothy Gaston, mechanical engineering student from Livonia, Mich.

University of Michigan team
Dan Gore, senior computer science major from Saline, Mich.
Madeline McAuley, engineering major from Farmington, Mich.

Northwestern University team
Adrian Sargent, mechanical engineering student from Muskegon, Mich.
Brendan Hill, mechanical engineering major from Ann Arbor, Mich.

Iowa State University team
Alex Hoeksema, electrical engineering major from Portage, Mich.

University of Waterloo team
Nicholas Killoran, mechanical engineering student from Macomb, Mich.
Kevin Kalchik, mechanical engineering student

Missouri University of Science and Technology team
Lyth Alobiedat, computer science major from Kalamazoo
Chris Rocker, mechanical engineering major from Traverse City, Mich.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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