Solar car featured in Barrie

April 12, 2007

    The Phoenix was on display at the Koslov Mall in Barrie last month. Photo courtesy of MSCP.
The McMaster Solar Car Project (MSCP) participated in a joint venture with the Simcoe-Muskoka Professional Engineers of Ontario (PEO) at the Koslov Mall in Barrie as part of Engineering Week last month. The MSCP displayed their current car, Phoenix, along with a video presentation of their next car, Hyperion, which is still in development.

"It never ceases to amaze me how eager the general public is in renewable energy knowledge and implementation," said Ronny Theiss, a fifth-year mechanical engineering and management student.

Team members answered questions from the public about the technology, design process and environmental benefits of solar powered vehicles, and also let children climb in and have their picture taken.

"Not only are the parents interested in renewable resources, but their kids are too," said Noel Haynes, a third-year materials engineering student. "Seeing the smiles on their faces as they clamber on the car and becoming interested in green technology at such a young age more than makes these events worthwhile for me."

Some of the materials used in Phoenix were on display to show that the carbon fibre used in Phoenix is more than 14 times stronger than the same weight in steel and a 0.2 mm thick solar cell made of silicon crystal can convert light into electricity.

The backdrop to the car featured a collage of pictures, ranging from computer renderings of various parts and pictorial representations of stress analysis to manufacturing, machining and testing. The design process showed how an idea was developed into a drawing, modeled and tested on a computer and used in the car.

Increasing gas prices stress the need for green sources of energy that don't produce pollution or cost a lot of money to generate.

Although the implementation of renewable energy won't happen overnight, the demand is increasing worldwide, making it difficult for the MSCP to obtain solar cells for their next car because of a worldwide shortage.

Through the joint venture with the Simcoe-Muskoka PEO chapter, the MSCP were able to provide information through their display, which would have otherwise not been possible.

The event helped the public learn about engineering, environmental technology and the engineering program at McMaster.

"This event had something for everyone," said Suzie Brown, a third-year mechanical engineering and management student. "It let people see and climb in a solar car, learn about environmental impacts, learn about how such a project is organized and designed, and walk away at the end of it full of knowledge and ideas."