Motorsport Team On Track for National Competition
The San Antonio College Motorsport Team was facing a major problem. After months of working to put together a vehicle that ran on a hydrogen fuel cell, there was a glitch with the power – a slight drop of pressure every 30 seconds that couldn’t be accounted for.
Was it a problem with the battery? Trouble with the wiring? Or was the hydrogen fuel cell – the heart of the vehicle – faulty?
The mystery was serious enough to give the team of about two dozen students who worked on the project several tense weeks.
In the end, the electronic team learned that the slight drop in hydrogen pressure was a normal occurrence and work continued with assembling the vehicle.
Since last year, the students that comprise the Motorsport team have spent most of their free time working and developing the hydrogen fuel cell powered car from the ground up. They have designed and built the custom frame, worked on creating the electrical system to make the vehicle run, and made sure a driver can manage the vehicle on a track.
The goal is to have the vehicle ready to run in the Shell Eco-Marathon. Each year the Royal Dutch Shell oil company sponsors a competition to challenge students to design, build, and drive ultra-energy efficient vehicles. The competition takes place on three continents: Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
The SAC Motorsport Team will be competing in Detroit, Mich. beginning April 27. The team is one of only six Texas college teams to take part in the 2017 competition.
Several students are leading the complicated engineering endeavor including project manager Dominic Ochoa, mechanical design leaders Daniel Martinez and Eben Pfeil, and electrical design leaders Irene Salazar and Julio Banda.
The students are supported by Alfred Alaniz, faculty advisor for the Latinos in Science and Engineering (MAES) program and professor of astronomy and physics, Dee Dixon, coordinator for the Mathematics, Engineering, and Science Achievement (MESA) lab and Ben Uresti, MESA academic lab technician. In addition, Dan Dimitiriu, engineering program coordinator, serves as a mechanical faculty advisor, and Klaus Bartels, adjunct professor in engineering, is the electrical faculty advisor.
For Ochoa, leading the Motorsport Team has reinforced his passion for engineering. “For all the hardships and difficulties this project has brought, I’m still able to find enjoyment in it,” he said.
Salazar said she enjoys the complexity of the project, even when facing problems such as a motor controller not being compatible with the hydrogen fuel cell. “It tests our critical thinking and we practice the scientific method on a daily basis,” she said. “That’s what I love about science and engineering.”
Martinez said he was excited to join the Motor Sport team and he worked hard to improve his knowledge and skill sets for the project. “I have learned how to communicate with people as a team,” he said, adding “and how hard it is to build something from scratch.”
Sohyun “Sally” Kwag is a member of the chemical/ electrical team who also helps the mechanical team when they need a hand. She is one of the two drivers of the vehicle.
“I didn’t have any experience in engineering. Pretty much everything was new to me and researching mechanical parts for the car was challenging,” she said, adding, “I learned the importance of all engineers working together in order to succeed.”
The team still has much to do in coming weeks including installing a fiberglass shell to cover the frame. They also plan to test drive the vehicle on Dewey Street once all the parts are in place. Their deadline is to have it ready by April 1.
How to Help
The Motorsport Team is reaching out to the SAC community for help to get them to Detroit. The team has set up a Crowdrise page to raise money for trip. To donate, visit https://www.crowdrise.com/sacmotorsportteam.
Additionally, the Alamo Colleges Foundation can take donations. Visit http://alamo.edu/foundation/ and scroll down to the “Donate” button. Once inside the secure TouchNet site, please enter a donation amount.
Next, you’ll be taken to the Giving Options screen:
• In the Option 1 field, please select NO
• In the Option 2 field, please type in “SAC MESA Center Program”
• Follow the prompts to complete the fields.