Race car gathers momentum approaching competition

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Irene Salazar, engineering sophomore and electrical lead, puts on a show in front of professors March 27 in front of Candler and Scobee. Salazar and other teammates from the SAC Motorsport team where test driving their hydrogen-powered racecar before they leave to Detroit for the Shell Eco-marathon April 27-30. Photo by Brianna Rodrigue

Coverage of the Shell Eco-marathon to come on www.theranger.org.

By James Dusek

jdusek3@student.alamo.edu

When the hydrogen-powered race car sped down the walkway between Scobee Education Center and Candler Physical Education Center, cheers and applause bubbled up in little pockets of the gathering team members, advisers and student onlookers.

Driver Irene Salazar made a U-turn in front of Gonzales Hall and sped down the path toward Lot 21.

It finally moves.

After 18 months of work, the student-created hydrogen fuel cell car is nearing completion and will compete in the Shell Eco-marathon April 27-30 in Detroit.

The car will be officially unveiled in an event at 6 p.m. Thursday at Scobee Education Center.

Salazar, an engineering sophomore and one of the car’s two drivers, emerged from the vehicle.

She had just driven a car that she’d spent the past year and a half of her life working on. The fuel cell she tested, the motor control she programmed — it all worked.

“It was good. It was nice,” she said. “It feels like driving an actual car.”

Over spring break, the team mounted the $13,000 hydrogen fuel cell to the back of the car’s steel frame and, with some modifications, affixed the steering mechanism from a recumbent bicycle to the front.

All the car needs is a plastic shell and it’ll be ready for competition.

Though the team aims to place in the competition, the members say there’s more to be gained than a trophy.

“I see this as a huge stepping block toward things that I want to design later on,” Eben Pfeil, engineering graduate and mechanical lead, said.

Pfeil said the project is an opportunity to gain hands-on experience that he can’t get in a classroom.The team has ordered the plastic sheeting for the shell and plans to install it by Wednesday.

Seeing the car move is more than an engineering accomplishment to the group. For them, it’s the culmination of countless hours of intense work and worry. It’s their passion manifested.

“It felt like a weight came off my shoulders,” Dominic Ochoa, engineering sophomore and project lead, said. “This is my baby, this project. I don’t know — to finally see that huge milestone happen, it’s like a weight came off of my shoulders.”

Ochoa said the team didn’t encounter any major issues with the driving mechanisms. They did, however, encounter a financial issue in the beginning of March when a school credit card belonging to Corina Canizales, natural sciences unit assistant, received $1,900 in fraudulent charges.

Canizales purchased parts and resources for the group, and though the misatke is resolved and the charges refunded, the club’s funds were limited for over a week.

“There’s always been the thought of ‘what if something like that happens,’” Ochoa said, gesturing to a whiteboard detailing now frighteningly low funds.

The group also receives funding and support from sponsors such as Intercon Carriers and Peripheral Vascular Associates of San Antonio.

Most recently, the group received a $5,000 donation from Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Individuals can also donate to the project through the donate button at www.alamo.edu/foundation and specifying “San Antonio College Motorsport” as the recipient, or at www.crowdrise.com/sacmotorsportteam.

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