Team PrISUm makes progress on day three of American Solar Challenge

AMES, Iowa - Tuesday was a much better day on the road for Team PrISUm.

After struggling through a Monday of electrical problems, team members worked on their solar race car through the night and solved enough problems to make a good run on Tuesday.

It wasn't perfect, said Pat Sanderson, a senior from Iowa City who's majoring in mechanical engineering and is the team's project director. But it was a big improvement.

The team's race day started about two hours late because of morning repairs. But once on the road, the team drove most of the day on solar power.

Yes, Sanderson said, the batteries overheated once or twice. And the team had to stop to recharge the battery pack. But Anthelion - the car is named after the rare halo that sometimes appears opposite the sun - averaged about 45 mph when it was on the road.

That puts it about 77 miles short of the American Solar Challenge's next checkpoint in Jefferson City, Mo. The team will have to cover about 300 miles on Wednesday to make the race's next stage stop in Rolla, Mo. The team is still listed in 11th place in the 14-car field. The University of Michigan's team is leading.

So is Team PrISUm feeling better about the 1,100-mile race from Broken Arrow, Okla., to Naperville, Ill., for student-built and student-designed solar race cars?

"It's still difficult," said Sanderson, who was a senior master technician at a Ford dealership in Iowa City before enrolling at Iowa State. "There are still a lot of problems to fix."

Tuesday's solutions, for example, weren't permanent ones. Sanderson, who managed two hours of sleep between repair sessions, found a way to build a basic electrical system that allowed the car to get down the road.

"It's not fancy and it's not cool," Sanderson said. "But it works."

And the team's work never stops. Sanderson said new parts arrived Tuesday. So there would be another long night of repairs and improvements.