Introducing the race crew!

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Ever wondered about the faces behind NUsolar?  Last week I checked in with all 12 of the team members who are now representing Northwestern at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and asked them a few questions about the upcoming race. Without further ado, the 2011 FSGP Race Crew:

Jess Sudo

Sophomore, Mechanical Engineering

Hometown: Forest Lake, MN

How do you feel about the race at this point?

I feel pretty good about the race. Our new electrical system is much more streamlined than last year, and hopefully that will give rise to a large improvement from last year.

What are some of the most interesting reactions you have gotten from people while driving the solar car on public roads? Also, how do most people react?

Most people stare, point, have their mouths hanging open, and/or take pictures with their phones. The most interesting reactions are always the younger kids that are really amazed and are like “Whoa, what is that?” or the people that think it’s a UFO or some kind of boat.

Ignacio Estrada

Freshman, Mechanical Engineering

Hometown: Madrid, Spain

How do you feel about the race at this point?

I am really excited about the race and I feel this year we can do a good job at it. We are racing at a legendary track and that makes me feel awesome. I wish there were more races throughout the year to attend.

Headphones are on your ears or around your neck all the time. What kinds of music flow through them? What are some artists you commonly listen to?

Music is my thing, I need it to do everything in my life: working, reading and even sleeping! I really listen to any kind of music, but lately I have been listening to an Irish pop/rock group named The Coronas. They are good and everybody should check them out! (Grace, Don’t Wait! is an awesome song by them). Also I usually listen to some House/Electronic music to get myself pumped up to do stuff. I really need to listen to music at all times.

Michael Cornell

Sophomore, Mechanical Engineering

Hometown: Ardsley, NY

How do you feel about the race at this point?

The race is going to be awesome! With our new electrical system and mechanical improvements, sc5 is going to be at its best.

What are you most looking forward to in a new solar car design?

For sc6, I am looking forward to better aerodynamics and a new chassis. We will be able to go faster and drive farther, taking NUsolar to the next level.


Dan Cornew

Senior, Mechanical Engineering

Hometown:  Wilmette, IL

How do you feel about the race at this point?


In addition to providing one-word responses, Dan was the team’s Chief Engineer this past year. After graduating this summer he will begin working for SpaceX in Los Angeles, California.



Johnny Sun

Senior, Electrical Engineering

Hometown: Naperville, IL

How do you feel about the race at this point?

I think we worked out most of the bugs and the car will run reliably.

What advice would you offer future electrical team members?

Always ask lots of questions to learn as much as possible about how the electrical system as a whole. Never treat a subsystem as a black box before having some understanding of how it works first.

Kristin Landry

Senior, Mechanical Engineering

Hometown: Denver, Colorado

How do you feel about the race at this point?

As long as I can get out of the car fast enough, I can make it go fast enough.

If you were offered the solar car to use as personal transportation for a year, would you take it?

No, I would get pulled over by the police making sure it’s street-legal too often.



Matt Filak

Sophomore, Mechanical Engineering

Hometown: Cincinnati, OH

How do you feel about the race at this point?

I’m feeling pretty good about this race now. We did a lot of work in the past few months, fixing some things and making some major improvements to sc5. Having a new, reliable electrical system will be extremely advantageous, especially with the addition of regenerative braking and a better calibrated motor controller.

What activities or groups are you involved in other than NUsolar?

Outside of NUsolar, I am highly involved in StuCo, Northwestern’s Student Theatre Coalition. I have built sets for eight shows on campus in the (almost) two years that I have been at Northwestern.


Peter Fellenz

Senior, Political Science

Hometown: Phelps, NY

Peter is the team’s current Project Manager, which means he is in charge of the team’s administrative tasks such as planning logistics and purchasing. It is rumored that he wakes up at 6:00AM every morning.





Ayoka Hatcher-Stewart

Freshman, Mechanical Engineering

Hometown: Dallas, TX

How do you feel about the race at this point?

I’m excited for the race. I’m hoping nothing breaks but if something does break we should be ready.

How does being a member of the solar car team compare to what you thought it would be like when you decided to join?

I feel like I’ve learned a lot as a member of solar car. I was expecting it to be an experience where I could learn about engineering first hand. I’m happy to say that it’s been just that. I look forward to learning and doing more next year with the new car.

Jonathan Cook

Junior, Mechanical Engineering

Hometown: Kenilworth, IL

How do you feel about the race at this point?

I’m incredibly excited. I visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when I was 9 years old. I thought it was awesome and have wanted to visit again every since. Now being able to return to Indy, and to race a car there that I’ve spent so much time on is an unbelievable experience. Our car is running better than ever and with all the new features the new electrical system brings, I’m really looking forward to a competitive race.

As sponsorship chair, you talk to many company representatives and other people in industry. What are some of the most memorable conversations you have had with them?

Working with all of the companies that sponsor our team is the most rewarding part of being Sponsorship Chair. Aside from the satisfaction that comes with acquiring sponsorship, I’ve learned more than I could have imagined from countless emails and hours on the phone with sponsors who are supplying parts or materials for our team. Especially with the composites layup, it’s imperative that all parts of the process are compatible, can handle the temperatures, and that we have all the pieces we need.

Camille Bilodeau

Freshman, Biomedical Engineering

Hometown: Oxford, CT

How do you feel about the race at this point?

I feel very excited.

What sets driving the solar car apart from driving a regular car, to you?

Well, if the car breaks it’s our fault. Also, when driving it, everyone stares and some people give thumbs up or wave. That’s pretty cool.



Chris Yungmann

Freshman, Computer Science & Music Composition

Hometown: Clayton, OH

Chris is a Bienen School (music) & McCormick School (engineering) dual degree student. Chris works on the electrical team and writes much of the code that makes the electrical systems in sc5 do what we need it to do.






Hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the lives of our amazing team members! Check back often to follow our progress in Indy–are the skies ever going to clear up? What does this mean for our solar panels? Will the team decide to try having some fun in the rain? Stay tuned…

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