Team PrISUm aces a 280-mile race day; faces a 330-mile test on Friday

Team PrISUm races down the road during the American Solar Challenge.

Team PrISUm is racing from Ohio to South Dakota during the American Solar Challenge. Larger photo. Photo by Team PrISUm.

AMES, Iowa – It was a marathon day for Team PrISUm drivers Jacob Heinberg and Arun Sondhi.

The two students split the driving duties over nine hours and 280 miles from Topeka, Kansas, to Grand Island, Nebraska.

Heinberg – a junior from Marengo, Illinois, who’s studying mechanical engineering – had a 5-hour shift in Phaëton 2’s hot and cramped cockpit. That left four hours for Sondhi, a senior from Mason City who’s studying software engineering.

That’s what happens during the best race days. No stops for repairs equals no stops for driver changes. So don’t drink all that water yet – it’s going to be a while until the next pit stop.

“It was a great day, nothing broke at all,” said Matt Goode, a senior from Coggon who’s studying materials science and engineering and is the team’s project director. “The morning was a little cloudy, but the sun burned that off and it was amazing charging weather.”

And so Team PrISUm cruised along on day six of the American Solar Challenge, an eight-day, nearly 2,000-mile race from Ohio to South Dakota for student-designed and student-built solar cars. To celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service, the race is stopping in national parks and historic sites along the way.

Team PrISUm was the eighth team to stop at the day’s checkpoint at the Homestead National Monument of America in Beatrice, Nebraska.

Next up is Scotts Bluff National Monument in far western Nebraska. That’s 330 miles for the team. It will take a sunshiny morning charging session to fill the battery packs and make that kind of trip possible.

But at this point in the race, when it’s clear Team PrISUm isn’t going to be the winner, the goal is now to test and perfect systems for the team’s next car – and its dream of racing in the October 2017 World Solar Challenge across Australia.

And so days like Thursday are huge.

“We didn’t get on each other’s nerves,” Goode said. “We were able to sit back and watch the car operate like it should, the systems operate like they should, the team operate like it should.”