ADELAIDE, Australia - University of Michigan students have a bright future ahead of them after winning second place in the annual Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.
The race has been running for 27 years, having teams compete to design and race a solar powered vehicle across 1,800 miles the Australian outback. University of Michigan's team has come in third five times and are delighted to have broken what they've called "curse of the third."
Novum, the team's car this year, was the smallest and most aerodynamic vehicle they've ever built for the challenge, making it faster and more efficient. Most cars designed for the race had a catamaran influence on their design, but the Michigan team took a chance on a new design and beyond a shadow of a doubt, their hard work paid off.
"We had really high hopes for this car and doing something different. It was a big risk." said team member Patrick Irving. "We knew it was going to go either really well, or really not well. We're happy with how things turned out."
Novum translates to "new thing" from Latin.
Another enlightening idea was the custom weather learning device developed with lead strategist Alan Li with IBM.
"It's also important to take every day of the race into consideration to look ahead." said Li, "It could be sunny one day and we drive really fast, but if it's could the next, we wouldn't have enough energy."
Project manager Jon Cha believes that their inability to have their concentration clouded is another key reason to their success.
"They're not focused on winning," said Cha. "They're focused on what they're doing."
The winning team this year was the Dutch Nuon Solar Team, with their third consecutive win.