Community engagement

Solar Vehicle Project

What is it about?

The Solar Vehicle project is a Community Engagement undertaking initiated by the Department of mechanical and Industrial (DMIE) to showcase their engineering expertise to the benefit of communities, and is fully sustained by the Research and Innovation (R&D) portfolio and integrates sustainable environmental practices into community engagement initiatives.

This project entails the planning, design and construction of a FIA Compliant Olympia Class solar vehicle (4 wheels), to participate in an international competition with the participation and involvement of engineering lecturers and high school students from neighbouring high schools.

What is the purpose of solar vehicle project?

To illustrate what Engineering, Science and Technological expertise can bring for the common good of our society. To stimulate school learners’ creativity and innovativeness and interest in engineering and science studies through partnership with engineering academics and students.

The best solar vehicle typically exhibits the following:

- Sound, reliable mechanical design - High mechanical efficiency - Efficient and reliable electrical systems - Highly efficient motors - High power to weight battery systems - Efficient solar cells (good response to angle of incidence is vital)

How is this achievable?

Dedicated engineering staff members are grouped according to their fields of expertise to expose school learners and Unisa students to various processes of developing this solar vehicle. These staff members will continue to mentor these learners until the end of the project and to ensure that appropriate engineering skills are acquired. The design is to be kept as simple as possible, so that students can take full responsibility of the vehicle. Special effort will be made to make the solar vehicle easy to maintain and repair. The vehicle will have a full telemetry system, where the data of the car will be made available to scholars and searches who would like to use this in different projects.

Who can get involved?

Though this project is managed by the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, it represents the entire Unisa community. Therefore any Unisa staff member and students across various disciplines are more than welcome to participate. Innovation culture encourages teamwork in order to realise the organisational common goal. Typically students that make a solar team a success would be the type of people that accede to the following careers:

- Mechanical Engineers - Industrial Design - Aerodynamicists - Electrical Engineers - Computer Science - Geophysics and Climatology - Maths and Physics (STEM) - Marketing, Sponsorship and PR personnel - Business and Project management - Logistics, Catering, Travel/Transport planning, Medical - Teaching and Education

The best solar teams typically exhibit the following characteristics:

- Effective and well-practised team - Ability to solve problems on the fly and good teamwork - Good understanding of all the elements of their car, and what would typically have to be repaired - Strong understanding of the maths that drives solar vehicle strategy - Knowledge of the race environment, geographical, logistics, race rules

Last modified: 2017/05/05