Florida Poly students to debut in national solar car racing competition

Florida Polytechnic University students are leaving Wednesday to compete in a national solar car racing competition -- a first for the university.

Spencer Blackwell is one of three drivers getting up to speed with the new solar car ahead of the competition. He's also leading the 'Phoenix Racing' team of 15 students who designed and built the car within one year, which is a major feat because the process typically takes two years.

FOX 13 got to test drive the bare bones prototype in the Fall.

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Phoenix Racing's car 'Spark' can go up to 46 miles per hour and has a range of more than 300 miles, which is equivalent to a typical sedan.

The Formula Sun Grand Prix in Kentucky is a three-day race. Each driver can drive four out of eight hours each day and whichever team does the most laps wins. Blackwell thinks they're contending for a mid-field finish.

"Just in the preliminary testing we've done, I think we're going to be pretty reliable," said Blackwell, the Project Team President. "My concern is just making sure we're keeping our energy management consistent."

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The team's advisor and Professor of Mechanic Engineering, Dr. Matt Bohm, says he's proud of the team regardless of where they place. This is their first year competing and it's with top-name universities like MIT, Stanford, and Michigan. He's most excited about seeing the camaraderie.

"It's sort of our NCAA Championship event," said Bohm. "Working on it here and driving around campus is one thing, but when you're at the event and you're competing against other vehicles, that's when a team really comes together."

The team's already looking forward to next year and what they can improve on. Blackwell hopes this experience establishes a legacy.

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"We don't have Formula SAE or Baja or anything like that, so the idea is to build the foundation for those programs with this," said Blackwell. "It's something to be proud of, especially as one of the people who started the program and who has seen it through from the start to now. It's something I'm proud of, to leave behind."

The competition starts on Friday. During the first three days, the judges will make sure all the cars are up to regulations and after that, the three-day race begins.

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