A Pretoria private school is to launch a solar car, on which it collaborated with the North-West University, at the Sasol Solar Challenge 2014, which will run from September 27 to October 4.
Maragon Private Schools Olympus received the Solar Eagle solar car on loan from the university in November last year. The collaboration was designed to prepare learners for their tertiary studies through mentorship from academics at higher education institutions and other professionals.
The joint effort also aims to support and strengthen education among learners and to increase enrolment at higher education institutions and for specific professions.
Maragon Private Schools Olympus project leader Marinda Jordaan tells Engineering News that, with some optimisations, Maragon built a successful platform over ten months to ensure the launch of the Solar Eagle two days before the race.
At least four mentors, seven teachers and nineteen learners, ranging from Grade 8 to Grade 11, were involved in the project.
The project was managed by five committees to enable Maragon to successfully measure its progress. This included public relations and marketing, finance and fundraising, logistics, race execution and design and build, as well as education alignment.
The driving team for the Solar Eagle will comprise a professional engineer as the lead driver and two teachers from Maragon.
The vehicle optimisation included reshaping and building a new solar panel using carbon fibre, and 6 m2 of silicon solar cells was mounted onto a new solar panel.
A new canopy was fitted and adjustments to the driver seat were made. The roll bar was replaced and a new battery management system was also installed.
“The battery management system is an electronic system that manages a rechargeable battery by protecting the battery from outside its safe operating area, monitoring its state, calculating secondary data, reporting the data, controlling its environment and authenticating and/or balancing it. “This is required to monitor data received from the driver, which the chase car will use to indicate how fast the driver should drive,” Jordaan explains.
Each solar car will have a lead and chase vehicle with radio contact for safety reasons.
Maragon installed new solar cells and a new telemetry system to help monitor the health of the vehicle and improve its race strategy.
The telemetry system is a wireless link between the solar car, the chase car and the lead car to allow for information exchange among them. The telemetry system will be used to ensure the car is driven as safely and efficiently as possible.
Sponsorship Maragon received a R375 000 sponsorship from educational group MaraVest for the solar car project and was also assigned experts to assist in managing the project.
“This project was an effective tool for the development of critical thinking and skills, as well as monitoring certain expectations and achievements in our learners. “It was our strategy to stimulate curiosity and involve children in authentic scientific enquiries, which will increase their understanding of how science and technology work in the real world. “This, in turn, helped to develop interests in specific career paths,” Jordaan says.
She adds that Maragon aims to increase the visibility of the institution by creating opportunities for its learners to develop attributes that will enable them to develop skills that will enhance their employability and potential contribution to society.
Jordaan says that many learners agree that the solar car project has made them aware of a possible career in sustainable energy.