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News & Events

06-18-1997

'Cardiac Kids' Run Out Of Time

INDIANAPOLIS-- Dreams die hard.

Two years of hard work and sleepless nights turned to dust as Clarkson University's Solar Knights failed to qualify for Sunrayce '97 yesterday. It will mark the first time ever that the team will not participate in the1200-mile, 10-day contest, which this year begins in the Circle City at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and finishes in Colorado Springs.

Solar Knight, the team's solar-powered vehicle failed to complete 40laps, or 100 miles, around the 2.5 mile Brickyard track as electrical problems led to repeated pit stops and numerous attempts to fix the problem. After a first lap of 55 m.p.h., subsequent laps were significantly slower due to shorts in the car, killing three of the batteries inside. Attempts to get around the problem were successful at first, but eventually, the car regressed into slower speeds, setting a pattern of race, pit, fix, race, pit again.

In the end, not even the heroic efforts of Electrical Team leader Jason MacDowell and the rest of the 15-person crew could get Solar Knight to make up the laps and time lost. By 5:45 CDT, the team faced the impossible challenge of completing 13 laps in the 15 minutes before the track closed.To do so would have meant covering the distance at 120 m.p.h., a violation of Sunrayce rules.

I want the people at Clarkson to understand that this is not a bunchof failures, or losers, but hard-working, courageous people who fought tothe very last, said Dr. Eric F. Thacher, Solar Knights founder and adviser. "They were going to send the car outand make another run at it at a quarter to six, for crying out loud. Ifthere was gold medal for guts and ingenuity and leadership, then this teamwould win it hands down."

We had a lot of hardships, but we pulled together as a team, and that's a lot more important than qualifying for the race, said Electrical Team member Kathy Christman.

With it marked the end of an amazing one-month run that saw the team's chances of even getting to Indianapolis literally turned upside down and then nearly rendered dead for want of visible brake lights.

At Eastern Regional Qualifying in Milford, Michigan in May, Solar Knight broke the right front strut, tilting over the car and damaging the top shell in the process. Team members then worked late into the nightsbefore Indianapolis to construct a new shell. At scrutineering on Monday,race officials determined that the brake lights on the car were notvisible enough from 40-feet away. Team members cannibalized the brake lights from their trailer to install on the car and passed scrutineering with 15 minutes to spare.

For now, the team will return to Potsdam on Friday. Talks have been made about competing in the Canadian Solar Challenge next year, but the long-term goal is to prepare for Sunrayce '99. Thacher will return, as will many others on the team.

I'm looking forward to '99, I'm sure they all are, too, Thacher said."There isn't one person on this team that I wouldn't want to have back, or work for me if I were an employer, or go to sea with in a submarine.That's the way I feel about them. They're my sons and daughters."

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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