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Deakin's Team ASCEND car competing in the outback

3 November 2023

World Solar Challenge: congrats to Deakin’s Team ASCEND on their epic Outback journey!

Since its launch in 1987, the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge invites secondary and uni students to design and build their own aerodynamic, solar-powered vehicles. Devised to push forward innovation in the development of sustainable personal transport, this inspiring program then challenges competitors to put their creations to the test via travelling 3000kms from Darwin to Adelaide in an Outback journey of epic proportions!

After many years in the making, Deakin University’s Team ASCEND was ready to take on the six-day challenge this year, with all involved proving themselves to be the very definition of courage, resilience, and good humour – even when things didn’t quite go to plan.

Competing in the Cruiser Class, which stipulates entrants’ vehicles must complete set distances powered only by solar, the team’s best efforts came somewhat undone four days in: gusty winds ultimately hastened the depletion of their car’s charge while only a stone’s throw from the next charging point. 

‘Day four saw us attempt the gruelling Alice Springs to Coober Pedy leg,’ said Deakin Technical Lead Nigel Petrie

We were hopeful the weather gods would be kind to us, but a strong headwind played havoc on our battery consumption.

Not surprisingly, by the day’s end, all of of the Cruiser Class entries suffered the same fate. However, Team ASCEND can proudly take away valuable lessons and amazing memories from their journey, crossing the finish line on Friday morning to complete the challenge despite being officially out of the race.

‘The car and team performance have exceeded all of our expectations, and it has been a pleasure to see the student team realise their aspirations,’ said Head of the School of Engineering, Professor Ben Horan.

I am confident that this experience will have a formative impact on their emerging careers as future engineers.

Team manager and lecturer in Engineering Matt Jennings agreed: ‘It was an amazing experience, and the breadth of skills required to participate in the challenge was broad. To see it come to fruition was inspiring, particularly to see the teams’ resilience in facing whatever was thrown at them was the most rewarding part for me.’

Deakin’s Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Liz Johnson also congratulated the students and staff associated with Team ASCEND for their innovation and fortitude, both during the race and the four years leading up to the challenge.

‘To design, build, and drive a fully functional solar car is no small feat,’ Professor Johnson said.

Thousands of hours of hard work and dedication by almost 1000 students across many different streams embodies what Deakin is about – innovation, teamwork, persistence and thought leadership. 

On behalf of the entire Deakin community, I congratulate Professor Ben Horan, Matt Jennings and all the students involved in the 2023 Solar Challenge.’ 

Well done on your momentous journey, Team ASCEND!

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