Solar car team races into competition

Laura Kattilakoski
Staff Writer

Building cars is typically left to the professionals, but the members of Coppell High School’s engineering team have spent hours upon hours after school to complete their very own solar car for a national competition.

“[Solar car is] basically a group of students all around the country that come together, and every team builds their car from scratch,” senior assistant mechanical lead Sagar Patel said. “You do your design work and your own kind of machine shop and make a car that runs successfully off of just solar energy and race it.”

To compete, each team must build a car that runs purely on solar powered batteries. The competition this year will be held at the Texas Motor Speedway. The competition on July 16-18 consists of three divisions. In Coppell’s division, the winner is determined by the number of miles each car travels over the course of three days. Last year’s winner got about 400 miles in.

“This year [the team is] cutting about 300 pounds of weight out of the car and we have a lighter car, a more efficient car, so in the race this year we are hoping to average about 15 to 20 miles per hour,” team coordinator Mike Yakubovsky said.

Coppell has had technical difficulties during competition in previous years, but they have learned from past experiences and this year they hope all of the remodeling and adjustments pays off.

“The first year we did it, we got a car in the race and we got 45 miles in it before we broke the gear,” Yakubosky said. “Then last year we had a new car that was much better except that during the preliminary rounds we broke a wheel, actually broke the metal on it, and had to rebuild a part. Because of a lack of machine shop we were unable to get it done in time and missed the race.”

Despite these challenges, there is a lot of knowledge to be gained about not just engineering, but life skills in general from the construction of a car.

“It’s been a really cool experience over the past two years,” senior mechanical lead Nick Chapman said. “It’s been an amazing journey, it’s been amazing college prep, and I think its going to be a great experience for the future. As a whole, I’ve really learned not only how to build but a lot of it has been project management.”

Project management comes from having to supervise all of the resources on top of all the building elements involved.

“They get to see why everything they’re learning in school is important because they have to go and talk to companies, they have to do marketing materials, media work, and they have to do a lot of planning. They also learn teamwork skills and get an idea of what engineers do out in the real world.” Yakubovsky said.