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Solar car teams will soon be making their way across the country – and they’ll be starting close by.

The American Solar Challenge will be starting its 1,700-mile, cross-country solar car endurance rally in Omaha on Saturday. The solar cars will be following portions of the Oregon National Historic Trail and other trails through Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon.

Before embarking on their nine-day, westward journey, the solar cars will be on display from 3-7 p.m. Friday at Lewis and Clark Landing, 6-1 Riverfront Drive, in Omaha. The free event also will include live music, historical reenactors and food trucks.

Visitors also will have an opportunity to talk to the teams from universities from across the country and around the world.

The American Solar Challenge and Formula Sun Grand Prix are collegiate student design competitions which promote educational excellence and engineering creativity.

From July 6-9 at Motorsport Park Hastings, the solar cars underwent a series of inspections covering all aspects of the car, including electrical, mechanical, body and sizing, dynamic testing and more.

The next three days are spent racing in the Formula Sun Grand Prix track event in Hastings. During the three-day road-course track race, the most laps completed in the allotted 24 hours of drive time wins.

“With no lunch break, teams strategize their pit stops for driver and tire changes all while carefully monitoring the weather and managing the car’s energy,” promotional material said. “Solar cars (and drivers) that complete a minimum number of laps qualify to participate in the American Solar Challenge.”

At 8 a.m. Saturday, the American Solar Challenge cars will start in one-minute intervals from the Lewis and Clark National Park Service building.

The cars will then make their way toward Fremont, traveling on Nebraska Highway 36 before turning onto U.S. Highway 275 and taking the bypass around the north edge of Fremont.

The cars will then travel west on U.S. Highway 30 through Ames and North Bend, and continuing on Highway 30 until eventually ending their first travel day in Grand Island.

In partnership with the National Park Service, this event will help commemorate the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System and the 175th anniversary of the Oregon Trail.

After leaving Grand Island, the cars’ other stops will be in Gering; Casper, Wyoming; Lander, Wyoming; Farson, Wyoming; Arco, Idaho; Craters of the Moon, Idaho; Mountain Home, Idaho; Burns, Oregon; and finishing in Bend, Oregon.

The teams competing are from: University of Michigan, University of Kentucky, MIT, Western Sydney University, Illinois State University, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of Florida, UC-Berkeley, Iowa State, University of Waterloo, University of Minnesota, Missouri S&T, Georgia Institute of Technology, Polytechnique Montreal, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, North Carolina State University, Ecole de Technologie Superieure, McMaster University, Appalachian State, Alfaisal University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, University of Bologna and Western Michigan University.

“For many of these teams, the American Solar Challenge is a goal they have been working towards for two years,” promotional material said. “Many hours have gone into the design and construction of these solar cars to ready them for competition.”

This year’s event features the traditional single-occupant vehicles and the new multi-occupant vehicles.

The winner of the single-occupant vehicle class is determined based on the total overall lowest elapsed time across all stages of the event. For the multi-occupant vehicle class, additional considerations of energy efficiency and practicality factor into the overall score.

Teams must obey posted speed limits and regulations limit the cars to 65 mph for the event. During testing, some solar cars have been clocked at over 100 mph.


Reporter/news assistant

Tammy Greunke is a native of Cedar Bluffs and reports on entertainment news, general news and sports.

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