WMU News

Students unveil '99 Sunseeker solar race car

May 14, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- Area residents will get a look at the latest in solar-powered vehicle technology when Western Michigan University students unveil the newest version of their solar race car Sunseeker on Friday, May 21.

In a 3 p.m. ceremony at WMU's Shaw Theatre in the Gilmore Theatre Complex, team members will show off Sunseeker 454, the new aerodynamic race car in which they plan to compete against cars built by student teams from around the nation in Sunrayce 99. That 1,300-mile race will begin June 20 in Washington, D.C., and conclude June 29 at the Epcot Center in Orlando, Fla. Sunrayce is sponsored by General Motors, EDS and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Participating in the unveiling ceremony will be WMU President Elson S. Floyd; Dr. Leonard Lamberson, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences; Fred Sitkins, associate professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering and team advisor; Jan Selesky, administrative assistant in the Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering; and student Ron B. Andrade, Sunseeker team leader.

A traveling team comprised of 14 students and three WMU staff members has been selected to take part in Sunrayce 99. They will represent dozens of students from across the University who have been involved in the Sunseeker project. The traveling team includes five student veterans of the 1997 team and students majoring in accounting, aeronautical engineering, aviation, computer engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering integrated supply management and physics. Team members will be introduced prior to the unveiling of Sunseeker 454.

The unveiling will also be used to mark the 10th anniversary of WMU's involvement with the Sunrayce program. WMU students first began working on a solar-powered vehicle in 1989 to
prepare for Sunrayce 90. Team members from the 1990, 1993, 1995 and 1997 Sunseeker teams will attend this year's unveiling and will be introduced at the event. WMU is one of only eight schools in the nation that has competed in all four races.

This year's all new Sunseeker features an aerodynamic body design of carbon fiber composite and new nickel metal hydride batteries, developed specifically for use in electric vehicles. The team is looking for an additional competitive edge with a pair of in-hub motors that have eliminated the need for a transmission and drive train.

Although not yet introduced to the Kalamazoo area community, Sunseeker 454 made its first official appearance May 6-9 at Sunrayce qualifying events at GM's Proving Grounds in Milford, Mich. A chassis problem prevented the team from finishing the qualifying round, so the team will complete its qualification work during pre-race activities in Washington, D.C. Currently, 17 cars have completed qualification requirements for slots in the race that may eventually include up to 40 cars.

More information about WMU's Sunseeker team and links to the Sunrayce Web site are available on the WMU team's Web site at <www.wmich.edu/sunseeker>.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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