June 18, 2008

The CMSS Blog - Your All Access Pass to Solar Splash 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engi.....er......charging?

Solar Splash 2008!

The Solar Splash 2008 competition is upon us and the air in Arkansas offers up a palpable, adrenaline-fueled mixture of tension, excitement, anticipation, and dare I say.....romance?

As the team lays to rest tonight, we take with us the toils of a very hectic day. A day that will be the first of many.

Day 1 - Wednesday, June 18th

Today marked the registration day of the competition. Teams from around the world descended upon Lake Fayetteville amidst trailers, hand carts, cheap pizza, and power tools, huddling under tents for protection from the driving sun.

Rising from our fine Super 8 Motel, the CMSS crew grabbed a quick breakfast before heading out to Lake Fayetteville for registration. Five members strong, we trekked across the rugged wilderness of the Arkansas highway system, trailer and boat in tow, wondering in careful anticipation what challenges would be laid before us.

Arrival - 10:00 am

We arrived to find the smiling faces of Jeff Morehouse and Co. ready and waiting for us to register.

At approximately 10:10, we hit our first roadblock.

It turns out that the first page of our technical report had failed to transfer correctly via fax, and while this does not impact our technical report score (e-mail is a wonderful thing), it did mean that our badges for competition were M.I.A. (Why this is the case, I still don't know).

Andrew Choate, the master roadblock maneuverer, was not phased by this, and the unpacking continued while the volunteers worked to make us temp badges.

Unpacking begins - 10:30 am
Backing the trailer into the parking lot, we began the unpacking of a trailer that had just weathered close to 1,000 miles on the road.
Stopping only briefly to catch up with some old friends from previous competitions, our small crew had quickly made a large dent in our once empty tent space.

Setup - 11:00 am

By this point in the day, everything had been running pretty smoothly. This trend was to continue no longer. In addition to setting up the boat for inspection, we received several desperate pleas from our faithful advisor to finish a research proposal due in only a few hours time. It wasn't long before each member of our team was scrambling to get something done. Whether we were typing up research proposals, tightening bolts, drilling holes, making trips to Lowes, or just telling little kids that football wasn't meant to be played near solar panels, everyone on the team moved like clockwork to get everything up and running. That's not to say setup didn't have its own problems, but considering how fluidly everything moved, you have to give Choate a hand for keeping us all on task.

Return of the Mike, the Drive-By Proposal, and Skippers galore - 1:00 pm

Pictures have been sparse for the past few hours. This is because Andrew and Greg returned from picking Mike up from the Airport, I had been frantically finishing a research proposal, and Will and Riddhi were trying to get the boat up to speed. Upon Mike's arrival we had some fresh blood to help setup the boat.

By 2:30 pm, the proposal had been completed and reviewed, but now we had a new problem. Lake Fayetteville was far from the wireless hotspot of the county, so Greg and I set out in the van to try and steal some free Wifi from any source we could find. Long story short, only after a few drinks will I be able to comfortably retell the events that ensued.

Meanwhile, back at camp, our three faithful skippers (Will, Mike, and Riddhi) were on there way to take the swim test while Andrew continued work on the boat.

Final hour - 4:00 pm

With less than an hour left before our mandated bus ride to the evening events, Andrew, Greg, and I worked to apply decals to the boat, build platforms for the solar controller, and weather-proof our area for tonight's impending storm. At 5:00 we boarded the buses with the rest of the teams and headed towards the University of Arkansas to reunite with our faithful skippers.

For the love of Chickens - 5:15 pm

Finally reunited again, CMSS enjoyed some time off to sit back and reflect. We were mid-way through one of Greg's stories about where to go in Pittsburgh if you want to get mugged, when we were told that tonight's presentation would be beginning shortly. First on the agenda was the technical report. According to Jeff Morehouse, this year has seen such a great rise in the quality of the technical reports that there were several teams with raw scores over 90 out of 100 points. In fact, the overall quality of the technical reports was even making the judges reconsider how they award points for the event. The final word on this will be decided tomorrow. That being said, I will list the top results for the technical report below:
1st: The College of New Jersey
2nd: Cederville University
3rd: University of Arkansas & University of South Carolina (tie)
While we were not able to secure a top spot in the technical report this year, the new scoring scheme may work to our advantage. Look back for updates in the coming day.

After the technical report annoucements we had a speaker from Tyson Foods Inc. talk to us about the growing industry of renewable diesel fuels. To me, a speaker on diesel fuels seemed a little out place at a solar competition, but who am I to judge. He proceded to enlighten us as to how Tyson is able to take the byproducts of their chicken, beef, and pork processes and convert them into diesel fuel. Needless to say, it made our following dinner of chicken, beef, and pork into a very "introspective" event.
After dinner, we talked with a few other teams and enjoyed the warm Arkansas night as we waited for buses to take us home.

Won't Stop, Can't Stop - 9:00 pm

In true CMSS style, our final stop before heading home was the local Lowes hardware store. We fanned out looking for parts to modify our hand cart, as the front wheels were in a state of disrepair. We eventually settled on a hand dolly, some pipe clamps, a few lag bolts, and a heaping portion of Pittsburgh ingenuity.

Until Next Time - 12:45
I can't tell you what hidden challenges lie before us in the days ahead.
What I can tell you, is that if we continue with the same level of commitment and determination that I saw today, Carnegie Mellon Solar Splash not be taking a back seat to any team without a fight.

To all who continue to follow our progress, thank you for your consistent support, and check back tomorrow for some more competition updates!

Till next time,
- Mark

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the regular updates...it's exciting to follow along with the day's events. Good Luck!

Jessica Pedersen, re^2