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Victory on Formula One tracksThe first Hong Kong team winning in the Shell Eco Marathon
Jul 2012

Last issue we reported that a team of students and academic staff from the Department of Engineering at IVE (Tsing Yi) was the first team ever to represent Hong Kong in the ‘Shell Eco-Marathon Asia 2012’ event in Malaysia. This contest ended successfully–they brought back a unique souvenir from the Formula One tracks–a 2nd prize trophy in the solar group (prototype category). The team was ecstatic about it–not only was it an international recognition of their technical capabilities but also their time and effort invested in this project has been fruitfully rewarded.

Keeping an eye out

The success in the contest was not due to coincidence or luck; the outstanding performance is credited to copious practice and preparation in advance. The Team Manager, Wai-kin LEE, final year student, stressed, “We paid full attention to every single detail, we did our best to minimise all the unexpected outcomes, which could potentially trap us in jeopardy.” In fact, for the past four months, apart from making improvement in the electrical and mechanical sub-systems, they did not overlook anything from lengthy strict regulations to tiny, unusual sounds coming from any components during practice on their racetrack demo. The former was a major challenge to be overcome. Ka-ming TSE, Team Member, final year student, explained, “Before participants even had the chance to test the distance that their vehicles could go they had to pass a technical and safety inspection. If this was not done exactly as directed, the teams would have to fix their vehicles and then go through the inspection again until every defect was fully corrected. Teams that completed this procedure earlier, definitely, would gain more time for the next step.”

Always think ahead

Nobody has a crystal ball to predicate what problems each team would encounter in the contest. Ir Peter TANG, Principal Lecturer, Department of Engineering said, “We went downtown once we arrived in Kuala Lumpur, not just to visit the site of competition, but we also looked for some garages and marked down their locations–we thought we might need some spare parts for later use.” Just as they had predicted, they did need some replacements–because of flat tyres–fortunately, their previous window shopping let them go straight for what they needed. Although they had just solved one issue, another came along. Another year three Team Member, Ching-to YIP said, “We needed to spend a great deal of time adjusting the pressure of the tyres we had just bought for the best performance. Thanks to effective division of labour these issues were overcome and the difficulties in fact strengthened our team work.”

Real test under the sun

Mr Billy CHOW, Lecturer, Department of Engineering said, “It was our first time to join this competition, obviously we were in a disadvantaged position. In particular we did not have as much technical data as those teams who had previously joined.” However, it was the ideal opportunity to see how energy efficient their racing car could be and how well the whole team could work out issues together. Weather could be a completely unpredictable challenge in solar car racing. During this contest, the weather was quite cloudy and put all the participants under pressure. Team Member Chun-yu TSE, final year student, said, “We kept monitoring the weather for the strongest sunlight, as we needed to select and decide the best time for the best absorption of sunlight.” Participating teams had to race four laps and meet certain requirements to win the competition–finish 11.2 kilometres within 23 minutes with the minimum amount of energy used possible.

Invisible challenges with support

Logistic arrangements were an invisible challenge but no less important–everything the team had worked towards for such a long time could have been crushed during transportation. Another Team Member, Yuk-hong LAM, year two student added, “It is also essential to consider the customs regulations which could easily have been overlooked. For example, all wooden boxes must be sprayed for pest extermination before landing, and their official certificates are required as well.” Luckily, with support from some sponsors and experts-Shell Hong Kong Limited, DHL Global Forwarding (Hong Kong) Limited, Olly Hwa (Holding) Limited, Surefield Developments Limited, Sun Power Asia and Sport Direct who all helped by providing materials, logistics services and offering professional advice which could not have been found in any manuals–it was made possible.

Challenge–next green track

The whole team agreed that this contest was an extraordinary opportunity to test drive a solar car in a Formula 1 race track. In addition, they were happy to meet other students who were also keen to dedicate their engineering knowhow and time to creativity and innovation. Wing-tai YEUNG, a year two student, Team Member, said, “After celebration, we will roll up our sleeves again and start to prepare our next project–the biannual World Solar Challenge Race in Australia next year, a very demanding global competition in terms of geographical, electrical, mechanical and physical conditions. Less than 50% of the vehicles managed to complete the race within the permitted time in 2011.” The team fully understand how hard it will be but refuse to back out. In fact, they are eagerly awaiting the chance to put into practice what they have just experienced and learnt from this contest, and also to test the limits of their knowledge and effort once again. One thing is for sure, this victory has motivated them to keep moving confidently on their green way.

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