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Solar car challenge back on track

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Charles Darwin University (CDU) engineering alumnus Steve Camilleri was part of the CDU team in the World Solar Challenge five times from 1995 to 2002.

The longest distance solar car race in the world is back on track after being put on hold for two years due to COVID-19, and Charles Darwin University (CDU) is recruiting a team to represent the Territory.

CDU participated in the World Solar Challenge from 1995 to 2003, with its signature Desert Rose solar car representing the Territory in several races and breaking a world record at a speed of 135mph at the World Solar Rally in Japan in 1995.

Hundreds of solar cars travel south from Darwin in the competition that spans over 3,000 kilometres.

Along the way, they encounter the terrain, landmarks and challenging conditions of the Northern Territory as they cruise through Katherine, Tennant Creek, Barrow Creek, Alice Springs, Kulgera and finally to the finish line in Adelaide.

Following the hiatus, the University returns this year with plans to form a talented and enthusiastic team to represent the Territory in this prestigious international event.

Innovative and applicable designs are being created for the new competition, with the original two-decade-old Desert Rose currently on display at CDU.

CDU Team Leader of Automotive, Transport and Civil Construction, Leith Darrach, said the new design should be relatable to Territorians.

“We want to build a solar car that looks like a household car, which people can look at and think ‘I want one of that’,” Mr Darrach said.

As a Vocational Education and Training (VET) lecturer at CDU, Mr Darrach said some of his students were already interested in being involved.

“This time we are going to engage the students and show them about the future because electric technology is going to be the way,” he said.

“If we get them involved, they can become experienced in their field even before they enter the workforce.”

CDU’s solar car team aims to bring Territorians “back to the future” and motivate locals to join in the world’s largest solar car event.

Students, engineers, mechanics, and even individuals with expertise in finance and event logistics are invited to join the CDU solar car challenge to form the winning local team with a hometown advantage.

A concept and design for the new CDU solar car will be developed in the coming year and the official testing and race will take place in October 2023.

CDU engineering alumnus Steve Camilleri was part of the CDU team in the World Solar Challenge five times from 1995 to 2002.

“I joined the team when I was a student at CDU. The solar car gave me tools to gain practical experiences, and it’s a concept that’s really easy to get behind because it’s renewable energy,” Mr Camilleri said.

“It was a team effort and the whole community really got together to participate. I think many former participants in Darwin will be really excited to hear it’s started again.”

Expressions of interest for the CDU Solar Challenge Team can be made at www.cdu.edu.au/alumni-giving/cdu-solar-challenge-team

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