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IMI looks to the future as it lends support to Student Solar Car Project

Solar car
@The_IMI looks to the future as it lends support to Student Solar Car Project @ArdinglySolar

Automotive industry professional body provides technical expertise for innovative project with ambitious road trip planned for 2021

Ardingly Solar is a collaborative project between two science renowned schools: Ardingly College and Ifield Community College. Long before COVID-19, students from both schools worked together during evenings and weekends to create solar powered vehicles that have raced around the world. From crossing Australia in the Bridgestone World Challenge, to racing around France and Belgium in Solar endurance races, the Ardingly Solar car illustrated the rising talent which matched and often exceeded the expertise of multi-million pound companies and world leading universities.

Under the guidance of Dr Andrew Spiers MBE, Ardingly Solar Car Project Manager, and with the help of volunteer companies, teachers and individuals including IMI regional member representatives, Douglas Wragg and Mike Reed, the students from Ardingly College and Ifield Community College had already made a name for themselves in the world of automotive innovation. The arrival of COVID-19 has taken that to a whole new level. Since the lockdown the students have been working remotely – but together – on an exciting new project:  the Flat Pack Car. And the IMI regional representatives have continued to provide vital support.

Using the wealth of knowledge gathered since the first solar car was built in 2015, the students decided to create a new project that reflects some of the concerns they have in the modern world, while being both educational and addressing real world issues. “We want to make something that anyone can build, that’s versatile, robust and affordable”, explained Joshua Skeggs (Year 10) Ifield Community College.

The idea is to deliver a solar powered vehicle that can be flat packed to site and assembled easily. It should be modular and simple in design with the ability to use local resources and can be used as an off grid power source for remote areas.

The students have been meeting up virtually twice a week to analyse and compare ideas. They have been learning to design and realise the project, using research online and programs such as Fusion 360, with every aspect of the vehicle mapped out and created, from the hub motors to the solar panels, dashboard, pedals, steering and chassis. All details are being designed to fit within the given criteria to make sure they fit and work well together while being simple to assemble and robust enough to work off road in remote environments.

“Despite being in quarantine, we have continued our work, through video calls and emails and are currently working bit by bit on building a car purely through design and conversation” said Marley Gaule, (Year 10) Ifield Community College.

“During this time of COVID where the whole country has come to a standstill, to be part of something that is moving so quickly is super exciting”, added William Price, (Year 13) Ardingly College. And having something to do, like designing a car is pretty awesome!”

Refusing to be held back by COVID-19, the students are also planning an ambitious road trip for 2021 in the original Solar Car. Next July, in partnership with the IMI and on behalf of BEN, the automotive industry charity, the students will drive the Solar car from John O’Groats to Brighton, stopping at sites of interest and those that have played a part in the manufacture and creation of this amazing and innovative car.

Mike Reed, AAE, MIMI, concluded:  “Douglas Wragg and I have found working with everyone on the Solar Car projects immensely uplifting.  We easily get more from the project than may be realised and to be mixing with such intelligent and focussed participants gives us an insight into the character of this country’s future engineers and confidence that our industry will be in good hands going forward.”

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