ECE Helps with Winston Solar Challenge

The Winston Solar Challenge was established ten years ago to help motivate students in science and engineering. The Challenge, coordinated by the Winston School in Dallas, teaches high school students around the world how to build roadworthy solar cars and stimulate their interests in science and engineering. It also provides a safe environment for them to display their solar cars. On even-numbered years, the teams share the fun on the world famous Texas Motor Speedway; on odd-numbered years, the teams drive cross-country to share their projects with millions of people.

In 2001 a solar car built by students at the Houston, Mississippi Vocational Tech School placed first prize in the race from Austin, Texas, to Indiannapolis, Indiana. Last year the team again won first prize at the Texas Motor Speedway. Just completed, the 2003 Dell-Winston Solar Challenge was a 1500-mile, nine-day race from the Dell World Headquarters in Round Rock, Texas, to the Florida Solar Energy Center in Cocoa, Florida. With the continuing support from a group at MSU, the Houston team again won the championship. In November, the team will travel to Australia to participate in a world solar challenge where they will compete with universities and industries.

ECE has assembled an impressive team of engineers to support the Houston team. They are led by Marshall Molen (faculty advisor), and include Robin Kelly and Travis Brignac who are both graduate students. Robin and Travis actually participated in the race. Their team of technical advisers back at the shop includes: Mike Mazzola (faculty advisor), Jim Gafford (research engineer), Matt Gray (graduate student), Brian Molen (undergraduate student), and Nick Bass (undergraduate student). Working in conjunction with MFJ, a local manufacturer of Ham radio accessories, the Houston students were equipped with a wireless telemetry system that gave them an edge over their competitors.

Communications within the group, by cellular telephone, was made possible by an ECE alumnus, Tim Tsai, owner of Wojo Wireless and wojonet.com in Tupelo, MS.