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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

June 10, 2005

Fusion qualifies No. 2 for continental solar car race

by Mike Krapfl

Joe Krueger was at the toolbox on a recent sunny afternoon, working in a Sweeney Hall garage to make Iowa State's student-built solar race car even better.

Ryan Ellis races Fusion around the 2.1 mile track at Heartland Park in Topeka, Kan., during last month's qualifying race for the North American Solar Challenge. Team PrISUm won its class in Topeka and easily qualified for the July 17-27 race from Austin, Texas, to Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Photo by Colin Burnett.

Krueger, a senior in mechanical engineering from Lawler, said the car dubbed Fusion did so well during a qualifying race in Topeka, Kan., last month it only needed some fine-tuning.

For example:

  • Krueger needed to move a panel with controls for the motor, the throttle and the cruise control because drivers bumped it every time they wiggled out of the race car.
  • He also needed to move the amp-hour meter -- a solar car's fuel gauge - so drivers could actually see it.
  • And he needed to move the car's turn signals so they'd be more visible.

But that's about all he had to do after Team PrISUm's $350,000 race car won the qualifying race's stock class and finished second to the University of Minnesota from the open class with its more expensive solar systems. That finish puts Fusion in the No. 2 starting position for the North American Solar Challenge.

The challenge begins July 17 in Austin, Texas, and ends July 27 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. That's 2,500 miles of racing, including a few miles inside the western border of Iowa between Sioux City and Sioux Falls, S.D., July 20 or 21.

And barring any extraordinary finishes at the last-chance qualifying race in Texas next month, Fusion is likely to keep the No. 2 starting spot, said Ryan Emerson, a senior from Creston who's majoring in computer engineering.

Only one Iowa State solar car has started so high, Emerson said. The 1999 Phoenix car started that year's Sunrayce first and finished fifth in the Washington, D.C., to Florida race.

Justin Steinlage, a senior in mechanical engineering from St. Lucas and the director of the Fusion project, said the car's No. 2 overall finish during qualifying was no fluke.

"We haven't started that high in a long time," he said. "I think that starting position is very representative of what our car is capable of doing and the level it is built to."

ISU's Fusion team

  • Colin Burnett, Nevada
  • Justin Clegg, Clinton
  • Akshay Dave, Ahmedabad Gujarat, India
  • Ryan Ellis, Brooklyn
  • Ryan Emerson, Creston
  • Hilda Garma, Wheaton, Ill.
  • Chris Hassebroek, Council Bluffs
  • Amanda Helgeson, Rochester, Minn.
  • Sarah Kelly, Rochester, Minn.
  • Joe Krueger, Lawler
  • Jared Leonard, Rapid City, S.D.
  • Kyle Miller, Rockford
  • Kate Muhlbauer, Manning
  • Tom Noonan, Berthoud, Colo.
  • Ryan Pfeiffer, Council Bluffs
  • Paul Phillips, Davenport
  • Justin Steinlage, St. Lucas