Formula One was a huge event this past fall, bringing hundreds of thousands of people to Austin. It's synonymous with fast and furious cars, but Circuit of the Americas is opening the track again in June for a race that some may find unconventional.
The Formula Sun Grand Prix will take place June 24th through June 29th, 2013. The event will feature collegiate teams from across the country and the world, and their cars fueled by solar energy.
The University of Texas is the host for the event. Engineering professor and faculty adviser for the Solar Vehicle Team, Gary Hallock, explains that solar cars, although not as fast as traditional Formula One cars, will indeed get up to highway speeds.
"A good solar car will go 55 mph, some of them much faster, and yet use very little energy. It's a great engineering challenge," he said.
Hallock and the Cockrell School of Engineering are excited to be on the international stage.
"It feels great, but I'm also feeling the pressure that we have to get our brand new car built and tested and operating and competitive and do well in this race, as well as be a good host to all the teams," he said.
Fred Engelkemeier, the electrical leader on the project, said the team of 50 students spends countless volunteer hours working on the car.
"Some days I spend most of my time on the computer designing the circuitry and CAD programs. Other days I might be in the lab spending hours upon hours soldering small circuit boards together," he said.
Body team leader, Benton Greene, told Fox 7 the car should be ready for on-road testing in the next few weeks. He said the team set this goal so they can start to "fix bugs and learn how to drive it effectively."
But the UT Solar Vehicle Team isn't just about building solar cars. They also have an outreach program, where they make presentations and demonstrations to schools around the area promoting alternative energy. It's also a program that lets students practice what they're learning inside the classroom.
"This is an opportunity for undergraduates to get involved in a real life project with deadlines and fundraising and very complex engineering," Hallock said. The SVT's President, Neda Abdul-Razzak, agreed.
"In class you learn all of these equations and you do the homework but you never really get to do a real project, so it was really great to join this team because you get to apply everything that you learn in class to building an actual car."
But when it comes down to it, it is a race, and the UT team wants to perform.
"I'm not sure what the actual odds of winning are but I'm sure we'll be one of the top finishers," Engelkemeier said.
Hallock promises that both the University and COTA are working on events for entertainment at the race. It's free and open to the public, so it will be a perfect opportunity to check out the F1 facilities if you missed them in November.