Handing a Lotus 7 to a group of teenagers sounds like a recipe for disaster. Not so for the pupils of Ardingly College in West Sussex, who took the chassis and spent three years building a solar electric vehicle, before racing 3,000 km across Australia in the world’s biggest solar driving challenge.
This is the story of how SOLIDWORKS helped Ardingly’s pupils swap the classroom for the fast lane on an exhilarating antipodal adventure.
Not your regular school trip…
Every school pupil’s dream is to spend the nights camping in the Australian Outback, with enormous snakes, spiders and scorpions mere feet from the tent. Okay, perhaps not. But it’s a necessary evil when you are taking part in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge – the largest and longest race for solar-powered vehicles on the planet.
The route meanders 3,028 km north to south – from Darwin, through the Outback, to Adelaide. Previous competitors have been thwarted by hazards such as bush fires, road trains, cattle grids and even kangaroos. That didn’t stop Ardingly College’s team – Ardingly Solar, who finished sixth in their class in 2015’s race – from becoming the first school in Europe to complete the gruelling route.
From SOLIDWORKS to the workshop
Ardingly Solar’s vehicle had input from 120 pupils and took three years to build. The Lotus 7 chassis was fitted with a custom-built composite shell and mounted with two racks of silicon photovoltaic solar panels. SOLIDWORKS reseller NT CADCAM was Ardingly’s first major sponsor – and trained the team in SOLIDWORKS.
Ardingly used the software throughout a rigorous design process (there were 366 exacting design regulations to meet). The team then ran airflow simulations within SOLIDWORKS to refine the design of the solar vehicle.
Here’s to the best school science project we have ever heard of.