Solar Car Race Offers Gold Standard Learning in Abu Dhabi

In January, nine OSU students took a solar car they built to the United Arab Emirates to participate in the Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge, a four-day, 1,200 kilometer race.


February 26, 2015

Photo: John Ren
Photo: John Ren

Call it the experience of a lifetime. Or just call it part of a great education at Oregon State.

In January, nine OSU students took a solar car they built to the United Arab Emirates to participate in the Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge, a four-day, 1,200 kilometer race.

This was the first international competition for the university’s Solar Vehicle Team, made possible by generous underwriting by the race sponsors – including air shipment for OSU’s vehicle, aptly named the Phoenix.

“Oregon State has a history of good sportsmanship. At the American Solar Challenge, we have consistently won Spirit of the Race awards because we go out of our way to help other teams and are there to foster a great community of engineers,” said chemical engineering sophomore John Ren. “This was the inaugural Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge, and the organizers wanted us there because they believe we are a great representation of what solar car racing should be.”

The powered-by-orange (and sun) car placed 12th in a field of 15 teams from Asia, Europe, the U.S., and Australia. But as far as learning experiences go, everyone was a winner.

SolarCarcamel2

Photo courtesy of OSU solar car team

“When it comes to bridging the gap between theory and reality, you can’t get better than this,” said faculty adviser David O’Gorman. “They designed this car literally from the ground up. To go from raw materials to a full vehicle, tested in a high pressure environment — I can’t tell you how much learning and experience they get out of it. Nothing can more properly prepare you for the real world.”

Increasing experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate students has become a top priority at Oregon State. Investments in these areas increase graduation rates while giving students a competitive edge when they launch their careers.

Numerous studies have shown that research, internships, service learning, global education and leadership are among the most effective activities that promote student success and engagement in their education. For example, one study found that one out of three students with high interest in studying abroad, but who did not participate, failed to graduate in five years; 100 percent of those who did study abroad successfully graduated.

Friends of the university make these life-changing experiences possible by supporting scholarships, travel funds, student organizations like the OSU Solar Vehicle Team, and more.

Photo courtesy of OSU solar car team
Photo courtesy of OSU solar car team

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CATEGORIES: Student Research