Calendar for March

Forgot this calendar (click for hi-res image). Pi Day coming up.

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2019 in science so far

This year in science so far (click to zoom). Clockwise from top left:


Media teams and the World Solar Challenge

In the lead up to the 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia this coming October, wise solar car teams are building their media and social media presence. This has all kinds of benefits. It grows the fan base, and fans sometimes respond to crowd-funding campaigns. Even if they don’t, fans provide moral support. A media/social media presence also helps to attract sponsors, either as a result of a potential sponsor reading a story, or as a result of a potential sponsor googling a team.


Two solar-car media stories, the left from Algemeen Dagblad in the Netherlands (January 2019), and the right from the New Straits Times in Malaysia (September 2018). The orange team shirt on the left has instant brand recognition for both the team and the major sponsor.

Above are two good media stories, one from the champions in Delft, and the other from the newer Ecophoton team in Malaysia. It often helps to place a story if there is a local connection. It’s big news in Zwolle (population 127,000) that a local girl is team leader of Vattenfall Solar Team. It’s even bigger news in Abcoude (population 8,800) that a local student is on the team. During the American Solar Challenge, solar car teams spending the night in a town are pretty much guaranteed to make the local news as well. This benefits a team’s university, in that children are likely to remember the big event when they later go to college.

Other kinds of media story are technology-focused, highlighting the role of in-kind sponsors, such as Sonnenwagen Aachen and Covestro. Transportation and logistics sponsors, like Michigan and Höegh Autoliners, also generate stories of an obvious kind. In all cases, a good team photographer contributes greatly to a good story.


Michigan loads up their famous semi trailer in June 2015 (image credit)

I’ve often pointed out that a solar car team is more like a startup company than anything else. Sponsorship and media is just as important as building and racing the car. The top teams provide a model to follow for all of these activities. Conversely, those teams which fail to recruit a subteam for sponsorship and media should not be surprised if they struggle to find sponsors (which is my cue to mention this great trio of posts on sponsorship from Australia’s Team Arrow).


2019 World Solar Challenge update #2


Western Sydney University, after finishing WSC 2017 (picture credit)

Warning: this list is obsolete. Please check more recent posts.

Here is a new update on the 53 teams (27 Challengers, 25 Cruisers, and 1 Adventure car) aiming for the 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia this coming October. Few teams have any significant news to report at this stage, so this is my best understanding of the current team status.

By special request, all links in this post (including the clickable social media icons) now open in a new tab or page, depending on your browser (I would welcome feedback on whether this is an improvement):

AU  Adelaide University 

Challenger (Lumen II) – existing car.

AU  ATN Solar Car Team 

Cruiser (new team: see my team bio) – they have manufactured several parts of the car interior.

AU  Australian National University 

Challenger (new car: MTAA Gnowee) – no details as yet.

AU  Flinders University 

Cruiser (Investigator Mark III) – existing car.

AU  Swinburne Solar Team 

Cruiser (new team) – they appear to be building their first solar car.

AU  TAFE SA 

Cruiser (SAV) – existing car.

AU  Team Arrow 

Cruiser (ArrowSTF) – their commercial arm, Prohelion, is selling power packages.

AU  University of New South Wales / Sunswift 

Cruiser (Violet) – they set a record for lowest energy consumption driving trans-Australia (Perth to Sydney).

AU  Western Sydney Solar Team 

Challenger (Unlimited 2.0) – they won the American Solar Challenge with this car last year, and will be making further improvements.


photo: Anthony Dekker

BE  Punch Powertrain Solar Team 

Challenger (new car) – they have some (top secret) production moulds.

CA  ETS Quebec (Eclipse) 

Challenger (Éclipse X) – they came an excellent 3rd in the ASC, 102 minutes behind Western Sydney.

CA  University of Toronto (Blue Sky) 

Challenger (new car: Viridian) – they plan to unveil the new car in July.

CL  Antakari Solar Team 

Challenger (new car: Intikallpa V) – no news on the new design as yet.

CL  Eolian AutoSolar 

Cruiser (new car: Auriga ) – no news on the new design as yet.

DE  Bochum University of Applied Sciences 

Cruiser (new car) – no news on the new design as yet.

DE  Sonnenwagen Aachen 

Challenger (new car) – no details as yet.

HK  Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education 

Cruiser (Sophie VI) – existing car.

IN  R.V. College of Engineering 

Challenger (new car) – no details as yet.

IN  SolarMobil Manipal 

Cruiser (SM-S2) – existing car.

IT  Futuro Solare Onlus 

Cruiser (new car: Archimede 2.0) – they have an exciting design concept.

IT  Onda Solare 

Cruiser (Emilia 4) – they won the American Solar Challenge (Cruiser class) last year, and they have written up their design process here.

JP  Kogakuin University 

Challenger (new car) – they have officially announced their participation.

JP  Nagoya Institute of Technology 

Challenger (new car) – no news on the new design as yet.

JP  Tokai University 

Challenger (new car) – no news on the new design as yet.

KR  Kookmin University Solar Team 

Challenger (new car) – no news on the new design as yet.

MY  EcoPhoton / UiTM 

Challenger (new car: Tigris) – no news on the new design as yet, but Malaysia Boleh!

MA  Mines Rabat Solar Team 

Challenger (new car: Eleadora 2) – their new catamaran will look like this.

NL  Solar Team Eindhoven 

Cruiser (new car: Stella ?) – they have a good team working on the car.

NL  Solar Team Twente 

Challenger (new car) – they are already producing regular vlogs, and have a vlog for February (Dutch only).

NL  Top Dutch Solar Racing 

Challenger (new team: see my team bio) – they have been prototyping in the snow.

NL  Vattenfall Solar Team (Delft) 

Challenger (new car: Nuna X) – these are the champions formerly known as Nuon. See their name change announcement video.

PL  Lodz Solar Team 

Cruiser (Eagle Two) – they have been visiting the USA for a conference.

PL  PUT Solar Dynamics 

Cruiser (new team) – they are based in the home town of the famous Australian explorer Paweł Strzelecki.

RU  Polytech Solar 

Cruiser (new car) – no news on the new design as yet.

SG  Singapore Polytechnic 

Cruiser (new car) – no details as yet.

SE  Chalmers Solar Team 

Challenger (new team: see my team bio) – their preliminary design resembles that of the South African NWU team.

SE  Halmstad University Solar Team 

Challenger (new team: see my team bio) – they are planning a bullet car, much like Michigan’s 2017 entry.

SE  JU Solar Team 

Challenger (new car) – no news on the new design as yet.

SE  MDH Solar Team 

Challenger (new car) – some degree of autonomous driving is planned.

CH  Solar Energy Racers 

Challenger (SER-3) – they raced this car in South Africa.

TW  Kaohsiung / Apollo 

Cruiser (new car) – no news on the new design as yet.

TH  Siam Technical College 

Cruiser (new car: STC-3) – no news on the new design as yet.

TR  Dokuz Eylül University (Solaris) 

Challenger (plans uncertain) – no details as yet.

GB  Ardingly College 

Cruiser – this high-school team came 6th in the iESC Cruiser class.

GB  Cambridge University 

Cruiser (new car: Helia) – they are busy with fabrication.

GB  Durham University 

Challenger (new car: Ortus) – no news on the new design as yet.

US  Appalachian State University (Sunergy) 

Cruiser (new team: see my team bio) – they competed in the American Solar Challenge last year, with their car ROSE.

US  Berkeley (CalSol) 

Cruiser (new car: Tachyon) – they have a bottom shell and roll cage.

US  Houston School District 

Adventure (Sundancer) – this high school team is a regular competitor.

US  Iowa State University (PrISUm) 

Cruiser (new car: Eliana) – no news on the new design as yet.

US  Stanford Solar Car Project 

Challenger (new car) – no news on the new design as yet.

US  University of Michigan 

Challenger (new car) – they are asking for name suggestions for the new car.

US  University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project 

Cruiser (new car: Freya) – no news on the new design as yet.

This page last updated 08:22 on 25 February 2019 AEDT


Oral rehydration therapy at home #2

Following up my last post on oral rehydration therapy, it was pointed out to me that coconut water is a rich source of potassium. So much so that it can be used to make an alternate home recipe for Oral Rehydration Solution. The recipe, illustrated above, is:

  • 3 metric cups (750 ml) of water
  • 1 metric cup (250 ml) of coconut water
  • 8 metric teaspoons (40 ml) of lemon or lime juice, as a source of citrate
  • 1 metric teaspoon (5 ml) of honey, to supply additional glucose
  • ½ metric teaspoon of salt, to supply additional chloride and sodium
  • ½ metric teaspoon of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), to supply additional sodium, and as a way of neutralising the acidity in the lemon or lime juice

Oral rehydration therapy at home

Oral rehydration therapy is one of the most cost-effective lifesavers in the history of medicine. It stops people dying from cholera and other diarrheal diseases. It works because of the sodium-glucose co-transport mechanism in the intestines, discovered by Robert K. Crane around 1960.

The WHO has guidelines for Oral Rehydration Solution, and the recipe pictured at the top of this post is my attempt to approximate these guidelines using ordinary kitchen ingredients and easy measurements (doing a computerised search through the space of valid options). The mix actually tastes OK too. The recipe is:

  • 1 litre of water
  • 8 metric teaspoons (40 ml) of lemon or lime juice, as a source of citrate (10 millimoles, by my calculation)
  • 3 metric teaspoons (15 ml) of honey, as a source of glucose and other sugars (90 millimoles)
  • 1 metric teaspoon (5 ml) of cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate), as a source of potassium (19 millimoles)
  • ¾ metric teaspoon of salt, as a source of chloride (73 millimoles) and sodium
  • ¼ metric teaspoon of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), as an additional source of sodium (giving 87 millimoles in total), and as a way of neutralising the acidity in the lemon or lime juice

The total osmolarity here is just under 300 millimoles, which is above the optimum of 245, but under the upper limit of 310. The specific WHO criteria for glucose (between the sodium level and 111 millimoles), sodium (60–90), potassium (15–25), citrate (8–12) and chloride (50–80) are also satisfied.

Possible substitutions are 13.5 grams of glucose powder for the honey and 2.1 grams of citric acid monohydrate for the lemon juice. The three other ingredients can also be replaced by ½ teaspoon “lite salt” (which provides sodium and potassium), ¼ teaspoon ordinary salt, and ½ teaspoon baking soda.


The Sydney Observatory


Observatory exterior (photo by Greg O’Beirne, 2006)

An unusual free science museum in Sydney, Australia is the Sydney Observatory. This opened in 1858 as a working observatory. The time ball, which dropped each day to mark the exact time, is still operating at 1:00 PM each afternoon. The observatory now operates as a small museum, having been refurbished during 1997–2008. The telescopes can also be used on paid night tours.

The observatory is a stiff climb up Observatory Hill. The exhibits are limited in number, but include some excellent orreries. Unless you have some astronomical expertise, the paid guided tours will be helpful. My brief visit was an enjoyable one.


An orrery at Sydney Observatory (photo by Anthony Dekker)