January 7, 2015
In vehicles powered by the sun, students from Abu Dhabi University and the University of Michigan will join forces in a grueling, four-day race across the United Arab Emirates.
The inaugural Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge takes place Jan. 15-19. Teams from six continents will compete for 745 miles in custom cars they designed and built themselves.
The contest coincides with the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, an effort to examine how renewable energies can play a part in the oil-rich region's future.
Just after the race, the teams will take part in the opening ceremonies of World Future Energy Summit, a gathering of more than 30,000 policymakers and business leaders from 170 countries.
The Michigan-Abu Dhabi team will be driving the Quantum — U-M's vehicle that took first place in the American Solar Challenge in 2014 and third in the World Solar Challenge in 2011. Michigan's Solar Car Team is the winningest in the U.S., with five consecutive first-place finishes in the American contest.
This team will consist of nine Abu Dhabi University students, three U-M students and seven Michigan alumni from previous U-M solar car teams.
"I'm really looking forward to a fresh perspective," said Pavan Naik, a U-M junior studying industrial and operations engineering. "It's definitely very easy to fall into a rut and partnering with international students should give new eyes to the engineering puzzle at hand and provide insight on new solutions we haven't considered yet."
Members of the U-M Solar Car Team prepare Quantum for its trip to Abu Dhabi.
This will be the first solar car race for the Abu Dhabi students.
"I am looking forward to gaining valuable experience from the U-M Solar Car Team," said Mohammed Ziauddin Mohammed Habeebuddin, a mechanical engineering student at Abu Dhabi University who is interested in energy conservation and efficiency. "I hope that it will be an unforgettable learning experience for me."
U-M alumnus Jeff Ferman predicts a win-win.
"I think it will be a valuable educational experience for both organizations," said Ferman, who received a bachelor's degree in computer science from Michigan in 2008. "In typical solar car fashion, shared adversity has a way of forming strong bonds."