Design Challenges

Before we built the solar car, we had to plan out our schedule and all the parts and supplies we needed to build it. Our biggest challenge started with the car its self and this would be a big factor in whether we could finish the project in one school semester (~4 months).

To build, or not to build?

The largest question was whether to build a car from scratch, or to modify an existing car. Below are the pros and cons of these options.

Build a car from scratch

Modify an existing car

  • Makes the car more original and feels good inside about a car fully build by high school students
  • Students learn more by doing everything, from research to machining to assembly
  • There is not enough time for us to fabricate the frame, body and chassis in 6 months
  • We don't have any engineers to guide us, and the teacher of the class teaches chemistry
  • Not enough people know how to design using CAD, and it would take months just to design the car on the computer
  • Costs more than buying one
  • More reasonable to do in our 6 month limit
  • Is at the skill level where our class is at. We can grind, saw and cut much better than we can weld and machine.
  • Requires little to no planning compared to a building a car, doesn't need to be designed on a computer
  • Is not very original
  • May look a little ghetto or strange since the car isn't designed for something like this
Baja Dune 150

We ended doing a little of both, we bough a dune buggy. Dune buggies are very bare; they don't have a chassis and come with just the frame. The vehicle we bought is a "Dune 150" by Baja Motorsports. It weighed just 528 lbs, versus a car which would have been almost a ton. We still had the challenge of building a chassis, but we ran out of time and decided to just get cloth material and enclose the car.

Our final product looks very similar to the stock car on the right. The most notable features are the massive shocks that allow the car 9" of clearance. We wanted to build a foam front bumper so the car's profile would look different, but we ran out of time.