NUsolar Returns for Fall Quarter 2015

Posted by Alexander Martin on October 06, 2015
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It’s a new year at Northwestern, and new years bring new friends, new challenges, and new cars. This year NUsolar will be designing our seventh solar car as well as preparing SC6 for its final and long-awaited race. We will be increasing our involvement in outreach and publicity events, with the help of 10 or so new members who have joined this year. So much is already going on—mechanical suspension and frame designs, concept art for the seventh car, trailer training, website maintenance, electrical testing, planning for outreach events, and more. And so much is yet to come.

New Team Leaders

Nathan Lindquist 15-235104-crop Alexander Martin

Spencer Williams (center; ’16 Computer Engineering) is the Project Manager this year, as well as Electrical Team Lead. Helping him as Assistant Project Managers are Nathan Lindquist (left; ’18 Computer Science) and Alexander Martin (right; ’17 Mechanical Engineering). These three manage all the personnel on the team and make sure that projects get done by each of the subteams.

New Car

The design process for our seventh generation solar vehicle begin this past summer and is already well underway. The mechanical team is working on frame and suspension designs and plans to have them finalized by the end of winter quarter this year, so that we can start building the car in the spring. The electrical team is working on telemetry software and upgrading boards on SC6. We plan to carry over many of the electrical systems from SC6 to the seventh car. Check out the cool concept art for the seventh vehicle.

Seventh Solar Car

New Tools

NUsolar is usinimage004g two new tools this year to help us manage our projects. The first tool is Trello. Trello is an online bulletin board app that allows you to organize projects and tasks and keep track of what is being done. We can set due dates and attach pdfs or files from Google Drive. All team members can comment on cards and can ask each other questions, without need to send 1,100 emails back and forth. Trello is sponsoring our team by giving a business class account, so that we can control which teams see which boards. For more information, visit


The second tool we are using is GrabCAD. Called by many the “GitHub for CAD,” GrabCAD is a now-free collaboration app for CAD files. It allows us to automatically track and compare versions of our models. It supports all major CAD formats, and has an online viewer so people without a CAD program can view the files. It also has a desktop client and SolidWorks integration.


NUsolar has already been involved a several outreach and publicity events this quarter, and we have several more planned. We participated in the 2015 Evanston Green Living Festival, where we talked to the Evanston community about who we are and what we do. We also had a table at the McCormick Student Activities Fair. We got to talk to prospective members about what they can do on the team.

Later in fall quarter we will be participating in the Green Living Expo at McHenry Country College (Nov. 7th). Illinois State Solar Car Team (prISUm) participated in this event last year and the organizers are excited to have a second solar car joining them. We will also be hosting an outreach event at Big Brothers Big Sisters of America in conjunction with Exelon Corporation of Chicago. Exelon is sponsoring a mini-solar-car race for middle and high schoolers, and we will attend the event with SC6, talk to the kids about what we do, and help present prizes to the winners.

For more information about events, follow our Facebook page or our Twitter.

FSGP 2015 Race Participation Canceled

Posted by on July 13, 2015
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Dear All,

This is the last kind post we ever wanted to make on this blog. Unfortunately, our car, SC6, will not be able to participate in this month’s Formula Sun Grand Prix in Austin, TX.

While testing some new temperature sensor boards in June, we shorted four controllers on our Battery Protection System (BPS). We quickly reached out to company that manufactures them to purchase more, but did not receive a response for three weeks. This was an unexpected delay.

Based on previous experience with this company’s shipping process, by the time we finally contacted the company, we knew we could not count on getting the parts we needed by the time of FSGP. On July 3rd, our project manager, Spencer Williams, made the decision to cancel our participation in the 2015 race.

Needless to say, this is a big disappointment for our team. All of our members put in a lot of work this year preparing the car for the race. Some who were planning to attend the race are now making plans to attend with teams at other universities, so that our members can still have “race experience.”

The issues which caused the BPS to short have been fixed, and we have already established contact with the company to purchase more control units. Members of the team will start heading back to NU in early September so that the car can be ready to drive by the time the Class of 2019 starts to arrive on campus. For more information, please contact us at



The NUsolar Car Team

NUsolar Spring Testing Trip Video

Posted by on June 19, 2015
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Medill Freshman Hangda Zhang did a journalism project involving our team, and she let us use her footage of one of our spring testing trips to put together this short video.

Medill Student Reports on NUsolar

Posted by on June 05, 2015
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Medill Student Hangda Zhang put together a nice multi-media report on one of our recent testing trips. You can read her article here.

NUsolar is a very eclectic team, and we really enjoy being able to reach out across schools and interact with other students. That wouldn’t be possible without the great school that is Northwestern. Shout out to NU!

Outreach and Education Events

Posted by on February 15, 2015
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This winter NUsolar will be hosting several outreach events in local Chicgo-area schools. Later this February we will be traveling to Orrington Elementary school to talk to give a hour-long presentation on the solar car. This is a really exciting opportunity to get young children interested in STEM and talk with them about solar vehicles — something the’ve probably never even thought of before.

ALX_0015-001sWe are also partnering with a FUSE program run by the Northwestern Office of STEM Education Partnerships. The FUSE program encourages kids to get involved in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics by providing mini-challenges and competitions for the kids to participate in. Participants work on their projects for several weeks and then upload a video or report to the FUSE website, where they are assessed and given coments by mentors.

One of the new FUSE challenges is to construct a small cardboard “solar car” and design it to travel as fast as possible. We will be visiting one of the schools participating in this contest with SC6 sometime in May. Kids really love solar cars (see right), so this will be an exciting opportunity for them.


We also have been working on fancy new publicity materials, including an acryllic-embeded logo (no picture, sorry), and new 3D-printed models of the solar car:

Photo: Look. A solar car!

This one still needs to be glued, but once complete, these models will hopefully allow us to give people a lot better idea of what our solar car is when we’re attending winter outreach events (like the ones mentioned above).

NUSolar Back In Action For Winter Quarter!

Posted by on January 17, 2015
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NUSolar is back in action for Winter Quarter!

Last Quarter, NUSolar hit 80% of its project milestones, surpassed its expectation of grant funding, and found a new sponsor.

This quarter, we aim to work on the SC6’s Steering Wheel Board, Driver Control board, among other items. So far, the SC6 is turning out to be promising!


bronze sponsors

Posted by on November 12, 2014
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We’re Back!

Posted by on September 17, 2014
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g3090It’s time to get back to work again: another exciting school year has started. This year NU solar is focusing on preparing SC6 for FSGP 2015 where we hope to be highly competitive. We are also begining the design process for our next car SC7! This next generation solar vehicle will be a four-wheeled car with a steel frame and designed for durability and reliability. We’re very excited about this new venture, and we hope that you will join us.

If you are interested in solar power technology, alternative energy, or you just like working on cars in general, please join us. The first team welcome meeting will be held:

Sunday, Sep. 28th, @ 12:00 pm in Ford Design Center.

(Date is subject to change; we have an outreach event on Saturday)

We have many teams, and we need new members for all of them:

  • Mechanical
  • Electrical / Software
  • Sponsorship and grant writing
  • Publicity, Communications and Web Administration
  • Public Outreach

Head over to the Join Us page or e-mail for more information.

Sunday Excursion in SC6

Posted by on May 26, 2014
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ALX_0002-001As the final weeks of the school year wrap up, we have finlly begun to seriously test SC6. On Saturday, following our weekly work session we took the car out on the first on-road excursion that it has been on in three years–top shell and all. The car performed very nicely, and there were no gliches in either the electrical or mechanical systems. On Sunday, then, we planned a slightly further excursion north eighteen miles to Lake Forest, IL, and back.


ALX_0005-001 ALX_0010-001

We drove past the Bahai Temple and then up along Sheridan Rd. with a lead and chase car clearing the way. On the road, SC6 got plenty of wowed looks from passerby. The nice weather and long weekend meant that there were lots of bikers and pedestrians outside who saw our vehicle. We had the chance to interact with an interested family during one of our pit stops. The young boys thought that it was cool that our car didn’t use gas.


Once again the car performed very nicely, even on some of the most pothole-laden streets. We successfully made it up to Lake Forest in 2 hours, making only two preventative stops to make sure the car’s systems were all working. Round trip, we put about 36 miles on the car. We plan to do many more excusions and to improve on this figure before the school year is out.


Back on the Road

Posted by on May 07, 2014
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NUSolar is back on the road (almost)!

After a long and cold winter quarter, the sunshine is greatly appreciated by both SC6 and the rest of the team. Over the past four weeks we have had the car out and about under its own power several times. Work on the array stand and canopy are still not finished, but we have installed a new touch-screen control for the driver as well as new, long-lasting batteries for the car’s auxiliary systems.

lead-acid batteries in SC6
Heavy lead-acid batteries served as replacements for our old Lithium-ion cells during testing, but will not be permanent.

The car’s software is continually being updated by the telemetry team. We recently installed a new steering wheel-mounted touch-screen to host the driver controls. In addition to horn and drive/reverse switches, this system will also give drivers live feedback of battery levels and other vital signs of the car. As always, the process of incorporating this new system is fraught with bugs, but we’ve been able to sort them out quickly and get things running.

Computer bugs

In mid-April, we took the bottom half of the car out for a test-drive around Northwestern’s campus. Starting from Ford we headed down via sidewalk to Norris, where we topped up the tire pressure. The car performed very well accelerating both the inclines and planes. We also got plenty of interested looks from passerby’s.

Before we can take the car out on the road, we still need to get a license plate. Nevertheless, we’re really excited about the way things are shaping up, and we look forward to a great summer.

Team members standing around SC6

Preparing to test the car