University of Calgary

University of Calgary

September 29, 2011 12:00 ET

University of Calgary: 45-degree heat, no power steering and the occasional kangaroo

University of Calgary Solar Team prepares for international race in Australia

CALGARY, ALBERTA--(Marketwire - Sept. 29, 2011) - The University of Calgary Solar Team held its final meeting today before leaving for Australia to race in the 2011 Veolia World Solar Challenge. The student-built solar car, Schulich Axiom, will be put to the ultimate test crossing 3,000 km through the Outback, from Darwin on the north coast to Adelaide on the south. Nearly 40 teams from around the world – including three other Canadian teams from Ontario and Quebec – will compete in the event October 16 – 23.

The car was shipped by sea over the summer. Two team members, Brandon Heenan and Christie Goss, have already arrived in Australia and the rest of the team leaves in the coming days.

Drivers spent months in training, mastering the art of highway driving and practicing hot yoga to get their bodies accustomed to intense heat for extended periods of time. The driver's compartment of the Axiom is expected to reach extreme temperatures under the scorching Australian sun.

"I'm expecting the hardest part will be staying hydrated and alert as we drive the long distances through the Outback," says driver and project co-chair Brandon Heenan. "Fortunately, we've been training for a year to deal with the intense conditions."

Driving won't be the only challenge. Remote areas of the Australian Outback have no mobile phone or internet service, so the team will rely on a satellite phone to get regular updates back to Calgary. The 15-hour time difference also complicates matters.

"We've established a 'home base' in Calgary consisting of one team member and we'll communicate regularly via satellite phone," explains race logistics manager Christie Goss. "We plan to have conversations twice daily, which will allow us to provide regular updates on our progress and help us plan race strategy."

Since placing sixth out of 18 teams in the 2010 American Solar Challenge, the Schulich Axiom has gone through a total redesign including a new array of solar cells, a new seat and a reconstructed top shell. The improvements reduced the car's weight by nearly half, from 272 kg (600 lbs) to 160 kg (353 lbs).

The other three Canadian teams in the 2011 Veolia World Solar Challenge are from the University of Toronto, the University of Waterloo and École de technologie supérieure in Montreal.

The race begins in Darwin on October 16. Get regular updates from the University of Calgary Solar Team's blog at www.calgarysolarteam.ca.

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