UBC Solar – Student Team Perspectives

UBC Solar is a student-led design team comprised of students from a variety of faculties, including engineering (and our own ECE department!), business, and science. The team aims to promote clean energy and sustainable automotive solutions through the development of electric solar-powered racecars. UBC Solar uses their design to compete in the Formula Sun Grand Prix and American Solar Challenge. In the 2022, UBC Solar placed 9th in the Formula Sun Grand Prix and will next be participating in the 2024 competition.

ECE has had the opportunity to interview the UBC Solar team! Keep reading to learn more about what the team does, and ways ECE students can participate!

What does your team do if you could sum it up in a few sentences? Give us your elevator pitch!

UBC Solar is a student-led engineering design team dedicated to designing, manufacturing, and racing solar-powered cars. We compete in the Formula Sun Grand Prix and American Solar Challenge, where teams from across North America race over 2,000 miles across the United States while harnessing energy only from the sun.

What specifically are ECE students involved in on your team? In other words, what can an ECE student expect to be working on by joining the team/why would an ECE student want to join? 

At UBC Solar, ECE students are presented with a plethora of learning opportunities. Our electrical teams are what makes our cars move – members gain experience with industry standard tools and skills which are directly translatable to their future careers. Skills include PCB Design using Altium, software/firmware construction, power electronics design, and more! 

Why did you choose to join this team?

I personally decided to join UBC Solar to have a supplemental learning experience beyond the typical classroom environment. I had heard from many of my peers that design teams were a great way to spend weekends and time between studying in a busy engineering degree. Boy, were they right!

How does being part of a student team enhance your experience at UBC and in the ECE department?

The academic experience is enhanced by being able to interact more intimately with different departments at UBC, including ECE! With much of the work we do on the team, we are able to reach out to professors and lab staff in the ECE department for assistance, whether that be to borrow equipment or ask questions about design. This has always been and will continue to be a valuable resource for the team.

I feel as though I have gained just as much valuable knowledge through UBC Solar as I have through my academics. The learning experience on the team has given a deep understanding of how to apply the concepts learned in class with skills that are directly applicable to real-world problems. Furthermore, the team has given me opportunities to develop myself professionally, as there are countless interactions with industry sponsors, UBC faculty, and other design teams.

Is there something you have learned that you wished you had known when you first began your undergrad program? What advice would you give your younger self?

Join a design team! I did not join Solar until my 2nd year of my undergrad, and looking back I wish I had joined sooner. The sheer amount you learn by being immersed in the project is amazing, and I can not stress enough to any young engineering student how enriching this experience can be.

Do you feel that your experience on the team is helping you prepare for life after university/in your career? How so?

Yes! As I’ve mentioned, there are countless technical skills learned on the team that are directly transferrable to future careers. Furthermore, the team not only designs and manufactures a (super cool) Solar Car, but teaches skills relevant to professionalism and being in the workforce as well. Solar operates similar to a small startup, where we have weekly all-hands meetings to discuss accomplishments and deliverables related to the project, as well as smaller sub-team meetings which are more focused on design. The team also maintains relationships with its sponsors, including industry contacts, individual donors, and UBC staff.

What would you say to someone who is considering joining your team? Why would you recommend someone to join?

Please apply! There are opportunities aplenty on the team for anyone to have a meaningful experience. We love having new members on the team, one of my personal favourite days of the year is our first day with new recruits. Finally, if not Solar, please join another design team – there are plenty of great ones at UBC!

How can others join the team or get in touch with you if they are interested in learning more?

For those interested in learning more, reach us through email at manager@ubcsolar.com or through Instagram @ubcsolar. We love chatting, so please reach out!

What is one funny or random thing about your team that would make someone laugh or unexpectedly say “Wow that’s cool!”?

There is a theoretical speed at which the Solar Car can run forever! As we charge from the sun, we can discharge the same amount of power through our motor and chase the sun.