The 2009 Victorian Model Solar Vehicle Challenge


By Paul Wellington, Chair VMSVC.

Twenty years after the Victorian Solar Energy Council awarded a grant to run the first model solar car race in Victoria which had 19 contestants, the 20th Victorian Model Solar Vehicle Challenge was held at Scienceworks on October 17th and 18th, 2009 with over 250 entries. Sixty five student designed Cars, 36 Advanced Boats, 135 Junior Boats (60 from regional schools & 75 from metropolitan schools) and 40 Sheridan event kit cars were entered from just over 40 schools although unfortunately, not all the teams arrived on the day.

The Bureau of Meteorology had forecast showers on Saturday and part cloud on Sunday and although we did not get the showers, we did not see too much of the sun for the whole weekend. The solar intensity in Melbourne on a bright summer’s day with no cloud is just over 1kW/m2 but rarely did sun levels get above 65% of that on Saturday with the finals held in less than 30% of full sun. As most solar cells being used are less than 15% efficient, the cars with their panels of about .08 m2  were running on 4 watts or less and the smaller boat panels delivered even less.

The Junior Metropolitan boats raced on the Saturday afternoon and although cloudy, produced some fast times and very close races. Two pools were used for the round robin and the first knockout rounds, before the top boats from the 2 groups raced off. Birmingham PS had 3 boats, Ruskin Park PS had 2 and Yarraville West PS had 1 in the last 6 boats, but all three schools had 1 which made the final. After 3 rounds with each boat starting in different lanes each time, Ruskin Park’s “The Marshmallow” just defeated Yarraville West’s “Flying Pigs” with Birmingham’s “Stainless Steel” coming third.

Sunday also proved to be a very cloudy day, but the Junior boats from regional schools again saw close racing but the finals were dominated by 2 schools – Ferny Creek PS and Bannockburn PS. Two Ferny Creek boats were placed first and second with Bannockburn’s “Boat Brains” coming a close third.

The top six Metropolitan boats were invited back and raced the top 6 Regional boats in the Victorian State Final. This time, Birmingham PS was placed first with “Team 1 Camo Kazee” and third with “Stainless Steel” while “Flying Pigs” from Yarraville West came second. However, all top 6 boats from the state have been invited back to compete at the national finals in November.

The Advanced Boat race was also held on Sunday with “Noiro” from Benalla College coming first, “Inertia” from Blackburn HS coming second and “Sabre’ from Benalla College coming third. They also will race at the nationals in November.

Except for the final, the Sheridan event for Kit Cars was held as a pursuit, with cars starting on opposite sides of an oval track, with the faster cars catching the slower ones. Unfortunately they also had many slow races due to the cloudy conditions. However, 4 different schools were represented in the semi-finals, Benalla College, Camberwell PS, Craigieburn P-12 and Glenferrie PS. The final held on the figure 8 track saw 2 really well built cars climb the hill which under the cloudy condition was a great result from these low cost cars powered by quite small solar panels. Craigieburn’s “Green Machine” was too fast for Camberwell’s “Bullet Bill” in the final with Glenferrie’s “GPS2” coming third and Benalla’s “Speedracer” coming 4th.

Saturday’s round robin for the Student Designed Cars (as opposed to the kit cars) saw a number of race times of just over 20 seconds which was quite a respectable time considering the solar intensity was only about 650 W/m2. This data was standardized and used for seeding the cars for the knockout rounds on Sunday. Many of the early rounds on Sunday were held at about 30% sun and some of the less sophisticated cars struggled to climb the hill. However, even under these conditions, some of the faster cars were completing the course in about 26 seconds. Races were held as the best of 3 with lanes being changed after the first race and several upsets occurred early with cars which had not performed particularly well on Saturday, beating their more highly seeded opponents in early rounds on Sunday. Only 1 heat for the day was run in reasonably bright conditions of 750 W/m2 and it saw Canterbury Girls car “CGSC1” set the fastest time of the weekend with a time of 17.9 seconds for the 100 metres, despite its panel be coming dislodged in the final straight.

Conditions if anything were worse after the lunch break on Sunday so the quarter, semi and grand finals were held under quite heavy cloud. However, newcomers to the Student Designed Car Challenge, Ashwood SC and Canterbury Girls SC made it into the quarter finals against more experienced teams from Castelmaine SC, Box Hill High, Syndal South PS, and Geelong College. The best of 3 semi-finals saw 2 Syndal South PS cars race each other with “Scorpion” beating “Lean Green Speed Machine” by .04 and .21 seconds in the 2 heats. Box Hill High’s “Killswitch” won its 2 heats by about 0.9 secs against Geelong College’s “Skylite”.

Geelong’s “Skylite” was a particularly well organized team as they were the only one of the top 4 cars to run without an electronic controller, a unit which ensures that the power coming from the panel is maximized for a range of solar intensities. This meant the “Skylite” team had to be able to make quick changes to the car’s gearing as the clouds waxed and waned. “Killswitch” probably featured in the most spectacular crash of the weekend as it jumped off its guide rail on first corner of one of its races on Saturday, lodged on the other rail and subsequently flew off the track altogether when its competitor caught it. The ballast dislodged and crashed through a bulkhead leaving a significant rebuilding job for Saturday night.

In the 2 lap (180 metre) race for third and fourth, “Lean Green Speed Machine” proved too good for “Skylite” in both heats and “Scorpion” was just too good for Killswitch in the final. However, the top 4 cars and 2 wild cards will contest the national finals and the locals hope to repeat the performance of Box Hill’s NFG which won in 2008 in Hobart.

The results from the event are as follows:

Student Designed Cars

 Prize School  Team Name 
1st place Syndal South PS Scorpion
2nd place Box Hill HS Killswitch
3rd place Syndal South PS Lean Green Speed Machine
4th place Geelong College Skylite
Best Poster Sandringham SC Cost-a-lota
Best Engineered Box Hill HS Nigresta
Best Entry from a New School Ashwood SC Auto Kinito


Sheridan Kit Cars

 Prize School  Team Name 
1st place Craigieburn SC Green machine
2nd place Camberwell PS Bullet Bill
3rd place Glenferrie PS GPS2
4th place Benalla College Speedracer
Best Poster Benalla College Speedracer
Best Entry from a New School Craigieburn SC  


Victorian Advanced Boats

 Prize School  Team Name 
1st place Benalla SC Noiro
2nd place Blackburn HS Inertia
3rd place Benalla SC Sabre
4th place Benalla SC Black Bullet
Best Poster Benalla SC  
Best Use of Materials Benalla SC Trident Fire
Most Innovate Design Billanook College Black Betty
Best First Entry Mt Scopus  
Best Uniform The Geelong College Solar Sparkles


Victorian Junior Boats

 Prize School  Team Name 
1st place Birmingham PS Camo Kazee
2nd place Yarraville West PS Flying Pigs
3rd place Birmingham PS  Stainless Steel


Junior Boats (Metropolitan)

 Prize School  Team Name 
1st place Ruskin Park PS The Marshmallow
2nd place Yarraville West PS Flying Pigs
3rd place Birmingham PS Stainless Steel
Best First Entry Camberwell South  
Best Poster Croydon Hills PS Team Squirtle
Best Use of Materials Springview PS Tropic Thunder
Best Team Uniform Camberwell South Magic
Most Innovative Design  Bell PS BPS2


Junior Boats (Regional)

 Prize School  Team Name 
1st place Ferny Creek PS 327
2nd place  Ferny Creek PS 328
3rd place Bannockburn PS Boat Brains
Best Poster New Gisborne PS  
Best Use of Materials The Geelong College Pippa
Most Innovative Design The Geelong College Purple Piranha
Best First Entry Mt Scopus