Virtual World Solar Challenge
UNSW Photovoltaics

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Help: Race Description
This tutorial brought to you by the Centre for Photovoltaic Engineering UNSW, Australia

In 1996, Honda team, in their car the Dream II, raced just over 3000 kilometers across the continent of Australia in a little over 4 days. Racing along the Stuart Highway, which stretches from the town of Darwin to the city Adelaide, the team averaged a record-setting 89.7 kilometers per hour, powered only by energy collected from the sun by an array of solar cells mounted on the car.

In preparation for the race, the Dream team understood the two most important factors that would decide the winning team: engineering and racing strategy. Good engineering, that is, the choice of materials and components as well as the design and construction of the race car, would result in the fastest, most energy efficient car. Good racing strategy, on the other hand, would require up-to-date weather information, accurate topography data and a sound working knowledge of the car itself. Combined, Honda's excellent engineering of the Dream II and a perfect racing stragegy led, not only to victory, but also to a overall speed record that seems unlikely to fall for some time to come.

If you take a look at some of the other race cars entered in the World Solar Challenge over the years, the first thing you will notice is that every car is different in a least some aspect. Different teams use different body shapes, different solar cells, different motors, different transmissions, etc. This is because every team has a different approach to solving the engineering problems associated with building a solar-powered car.

Furthermore, if you watch some of the teams during a race, you will also notice that each team has a different strategy for racing. Some teams try to keep their speed constant, while others try to steady their power usage. Some teams make use of sophisticated telemetry and communications systems electronics, while other teams depend on accurate weather forecasts.

In the Fantasy World Solar Challenge (FWSC) game, it's up to you to engineer the best car and then race it from Darwin to Adelaide. You'll have to decide between solar cell types, battery types etc. to come up with the best overall design. And, to make matters more interesting, you've got to stay within your prescribed budget. Then, once your car is completed, you can attempt the race, but you'll have to keep an eye on your speed, as well as the weather conditions and the status of your car. Otherwise, you might get caught in cloudy weather with no backup battery energy to keep you going. The game will monitor the time it takes you to complete the race, and keep your time in it's database so that you can compare your performance against all of the other entrants in the FWSC game this year.

To get a better idea about all of the "engineering choices" for your car design, click and goto Design Help, or for some tips and strategies for racing, click and goto Tips and Strategies on the icons below.

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