Iowa State's Team PrISUm raced its student-made solar car to its first ever victory at the Formula Sun Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, last week.

The event was a competition between student organizations in which solar-powered cars tried to make as many laps around the 3.4 mile track as possible during three days of racing. PrISUm won with a total of 223 laps, the next competitor having completed 192.

The ISU team also recorded the fastest lap, clocking in at about 4 minutes and 30 seconds.

“This is the team’s 25th anniversary, so the win was a nice cherry on top,” said Matthew Goode, Team PrISUm’s project director.

The winning car, named Phaeton after the Greek demigod of the sun, was built from scratch by the student organization.

“Students actually build the entire car with the exception of welding the frame together,” Goode said. “We lay the carbon fiber for the body down ourselves, we build our own circuit boards, we make our own turn signals and steering wheels.”

Goode said the only reason students aren’t able to weld the frame together is the requirement for certification from the Department of Transportation, an organization that would rather have the frame be welded by professionals.

The Formula Sun Grand Prix may have a clear winner, but Goode said a lot of the teams are happy to cooperate with one another. 

“In football, you don’t go to the competitor’s team and help them practice, but in this we’re helping everybody out because we want to race with them,” he said. “I’m really proud of the team for that.”

 

Goode also encouraged interested students to get involved with the team.

 

“If you want to join you can either send us an email or just show up at our office when school starts,” he said. “Even if you aren’t an engineering student, we’re always looking for people to help out in other ways, like promoting the club.”

 

Goode said new members will be important for PrISUm’s ambitious plans for the future.

 

“We want to take the team international, so we’re hoping to grow a lot in the next year,” he said.

 

The team has already began construction on its next vehicle, a four-wheeled car that is yet to be named.

 

“The team is on a two-year design-build phase, and we’ve already built the molds for the next car. The design is probably 85 percent complete,” Goode said. “We’re hoping to have it finished by April so we can start road-testing it and be ready for the American Solar Challenge.”

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