Founded in November 2017, the KU Solar Car organization was started by three young engineers; Zach Hall, Michael Srimongkolkul and Lance Erickson. In the midst of a first-year Thermodynamics lecture, Hall presented videos to Srimongkolkul and Erickson of a few national university engineering teams that raced with cars run on solar energy. The three engineers were motivated by what they saw and promptly reached out to their engineering friends to build interest in starting a team. The driven group instantly learned that establishing a successful solar car team would be a challenging feat but were not discouraged.
The remaining portion of that fall semester was used to arrange for people to fill leadership roles for the team. That following spring semester, the group spent learning how to come together as a functional team and how to begin the initial research on designing and building a solar car. In summer 2018, the team attended the Formula Sun Grand Prix (FSGP) in Hastings, Nebraska and took the opportunity to see solar cars in person and acquire a feel for what they were planning.
Fall semester (2019) was different this time, the team implemented a new member training program to help retain members and other teams generously gave advice and tips which directed KU Solar Car towards a finished design. The team partnered with a local polytechnic school and obtained a manufacturing space for the full car. For Astra, the team raised over $35,000 during the semester. The team aimed to complete the manufacturing of the car in the Spring semester. However, due to the COVID-19 situation, the team was unable to access the facilities and materials to complete the car.
Currently, the team plans to utilize the fall 2020 semester to finish manufacturing. Next spring, the plan is to test Astra and begin design for the next car.
The 2018-2019 school year was full of many challenges. The team welcomed their first round of brand-new members in the fall and began design on the first car, Astra. It was difficult to retain members and tough to pinpoint preliminary designs due to the team’s lack of experience. The team also met adversity when it came to fundraising. But despite all the trials, heads were held high and the team endured. In 2019, the team set its goal of finishing the car to compete by the summer of 2020.