Blue skies and solar cars

Student-run Blue Sky Solar Racing team promotes innovation and sustainability

Blue skies and solar cars

Blue Sky Solar Racing has quickly established itself as one of U of T’s leading design teams. Invested in the design, construction, and racing of solar-powered cars, the club is an incubator for innovation. It has attracted more than 100 members and finished 11th out of 35 teams at the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in October 2017 with its Polaris car.

The Varsity had a chance to speak with Hubaab Hussain, Managing Director at Blue Sky, about how the team goes from the blueprint to a fully functional, solar-powered car. “Our club takes pride in the ability to not only design, but also build the car by ourselves. We see through the entire build of the car from it’s conceptual design to the time it is on wheels,” said Hussain.

An insider’s look into operations and funding

The club’s annual routine can be segmented into six phases: the learning period, conceptual design, detailed design, building, testing, and racing.

Prior to the construction period, club members identify the particular design and features of the car they hope to build. From there, the team routinely meets every week to review potential ideas for a car design that follows this initial guideline.

According to Hussain, all members are invited to critically evaluate the ongoing design proposals for feasibility and whether one excels in key measures like solar collector performance or total mass. The materials required to build the car, often metal and carbon fibre, are acquired from external vendors.

Hussain explained that assembling the parts to form a fully functional solar-powered vehicle is time-consuming: initial assembly commences in September and extends to the next academic year, with completion expected in June.

Once the car is complete, it is tested extensively in open spaces such as race tracks, air strips, and private lots. Because safety is critically important to the club, there is an active board of certified engineers who examine the car before it’s tested.

Despite extensive planning, the club still faces setbacks. “The most challenging component is sticking to a timeline. A majority of our team members are full time engineering students. During the semester many of the leaders of the team spend a considerable amount of time on this project while managing school as well,” explained Hussain.

In recognition of the club’s continuous accomplishments, Blue Sky Solar Racing receives significant financial support from the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering and from numerous student bodies and external sponsors. Summed up, the club receives over $300,000 to for the designing and manufacturing of its cars.

Outlook and opportunities

The club’s underlying value of giving students the opportunity to apply their skills outside the classroom is what has driven the team to succeed.

Blue Sky Solar Racing is always on the lookout for exceptional students, irrespective of their stream, to join the engineering, financial, business, IT, or media teams. For interested students, Hussain said to email him or keep an eye out for volunteer opportunities on the Career Learning Network.

“The experience team members get at Blue Sky is incomparable to what they can get elsewhere” said Hussain.

Faculty of Engineering receives $20 million donation

Donation from the estate of Erwin Hart to fund professorship programs

Faculty of Engineering receives $20 million donation

U of T’s Faculty of Engineering has received a substantial donation from an alumnus.

The estate of Erwin Edward Hart, who graduated with a degree in civil engineering in 1940 and was the Chief Welding Engineer for the manufacturing company Massey Ferguson Ltd, left a bequest of $20 million to U of T’s Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering.

The donation will fund the Percy Edward Hart and Erwin Edward Hart Professorships. Percy was Erwin’s father. Seven faculty members in the first ten years of their career will be nominated from among their fellow faculty members to receive financial support from Hart’s fund. The chosen professors will be given $75,000 annually for three years to conduct research.

Among other departments, this extends to the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry, the Department of Civil Engineering, and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Furthermore, the donation contributes to the engineering portion of the Boundless campaign for the University of Toronto. Currently, $180 million has been raised for the engineers, with an engineering-specific target of $200 million.

Reaching for the Stars

U of T Aerospace Team seeks student levy

Reaching for the Stars

The University of Toronto’s Aerospace Team (UTAT) is looking to take its funding to the next level. The group will be proposing a divisional referendum concurrent with the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) Spring Elections. The levy, if passed, will charge students in the Faculty of Arts & Science and Professional Faculties 85¢  per session. The levy would be collected through the UTSU, an avenue that UTAT has never used before.

One of the university’s largest student design teams, UTAT is composed of students from both the Arts & Science and Engineering faculties. Over the past five years, UTAT has been pursuing increasingly high-flying and complex projects in space and aviation, hoping to add a student-led satellite project to their repertoire. The team hopes to expand all five of its divisions (Aerial Robotics, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Rocketry, Space Systems, and Outreach) over the next two years.

In pursuing a levy, the team hopes to not only realize larger projects, but also to gain support for more student-powered research and development at U of T as a whole.

Jeremy Chan-Hao Wang, executive director & senior engineering designer of UTAT, explained the need for additional funding: “Our growth will soon outpace that of traditional funding avenues from the University — e.g. grants from offices/departments — and though we make a concerted effort to secure in-kind industry donations wherever possible, — more than 90 per cent of all software and hardware we receive is donated — no one is willing to donate a satellite launch!”

The majority of money from the levy would be put toward a project to launch a satellite into space sometime in late 2018 or early 2019. The UTAT aims for this satellite to be the first satellite in Canada, completely designed and built by students.

“As part of the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge, UTAT is bringing together students from engineering, physics, and life sciences to conduct microbiology experiments in support of astronaut health,” Wang said. “We aim to develop a low-cost, open platform for students around the world to carry out space medicine experiments, using standardized and miniaturized satellite design combined with our microbiology research setup.” Of course, launching a satellite into outer space is costly, and requires greater funding than the team is currently able to receive.

The rest of the money would go toward UTAT’s current projects and equipment, including “multi-purpose quadcopters, fixed-wing drones for environmental monitoring and emergency medical services, sounding rockets for atmospheric research, and the satellite development prior to launch.”

Highlighting the many awards UTAT has received from organizations such as NASA, the UN, U of T, Ryerson in addition to six annual competitions attended by the team, Wang describes the team as “one of many student groups at U of T creating a tangible impact in key technical areas and educational outreach, and redefining what it means to ‘just be a student’.”