Flat Packs and Royalty - The Story behind Ardingly College Solar
28 Aug 2019
With BWSC participants designing, engineering and producing some of the world's most elite solar vehicles, it can be easy to forget that some of them are still completing their high school studies.
Ardingly College Solar's youngest team member is just 16, who along with 11 other school students, two from Ifield Community College and 10 from Ardingly form a hard-working BWSC team. That's not including the extra students who contribute to the project overall, totalling nearly 80 students! Some students in year 9 are being trained in the use of design packages such as Fusion 360, and are already working in the industry.
Dr Andrew Spiers MBE (that's an Order of the British Empire) is the Director of Science & Technology at Ardingly College, and the Project Manager for their Solar Car team. His interest in solar car technology originated during his time teaching a course at Stanford University in the USA, when one of his students showed him the Stanford Solar Car.
Taking his inspiration back to the UK, Ardingly shared the same passion for improving the planet, and provided all of the support to ensure that the College's students would have the skills and motivation to make a difference in energy consumption and pollution.
"The BWSC gives us a definite goal and a definte timescale", said Dr Spiers. "This forces decisions to be made and the need not just to sit an examination, but to create".
A sentiment that is echoed throughout the BWSC Community and particulalry alumni, who can attest that the BWSC provides skills and education that can't be taught in a normal University course.
Preparing for the 2019 BWSC, Ardingly was the first school to enter the European Solar Challenge, in which they placed 10th out of 20 in 2018. This has led them to key learnings to improve their car, and set them on the path to success for Australia the following year.
While also preparing for the BWSC, Ardingly College Solar has another goal in mind. Creating 'flat pack' solar vehicles that could potentially be supplied to communities in third world nations.
"We have assosciation with two Kenyan schools, and see the need for a clean transporter, as well as the need to generate electricity for the home. If then, on top of that, we can use the car as a learning tool, it is a win win situation"
"The technologies, especially electronic integration, have been gained from the BWSC. Rapid cost effective prototyping has given us a unique perspective!"
The last few months, like many teams, has been all systems go preparing for the journey down under, and the incredible human endeavour that is the BWSC. Like many teams also they have supporters, and in the case of Ardingly, some Royal support. His Royal Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco is the Patron of the Ardingly College Solar Team, and has been a big supporter of the team's endeavours.
"The relationship blossomed because of one our team contacted the Prince, and he made a positive move to help us through the foundation. He is so interested in improving the planet and as said before his enthusiasm is infectious."
"The support and enthusiasm has been infectious [of the Monaco Foundation and our sponsors]; with the Prince visiting us In England, and us attending at the request of the Prince the EVER conference In Monaco"
According to Andrew, the entire project has been 'wonderful and inspirational'.
"Working with [the students] enlightens the soul. Students are so fantastic, and just think outside of the box", he said.
"Seeing a year 9 now coming with us as an upper sixth students, using 3D printed items on the car... Seeing 12 of the students present to the European President of Visa... They are a force".
A force sounds right to us. While it seems the Ardingly College Solar have bright futures in careers ranging from engineering through to marketing, business management and even medicine, up first is the feat of the 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.
"Our race goal is to achieve the highest distance by a UK team. This would be fantastic".
You heard it here first; a challenge set to the UK's other teams this year, Cambridge University Eco Racing and Durham University Electric Motorsport.
The 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge takes place from Darwin to Adelaide, South Australia from 13-20 October.
Header image via Ardingly College Solar