Rochester natives on U of M solar car team prepare for race - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Rochester natives on U of M solar car team prepare for Australia race

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KTTC) -- An 1,800-mile drive would be daunting enough in any car, but to make that trip in a home-made vehicle is an entirely different challenge. But a group of students representing the University of Minnesota-- including two Rochester natives-- will soon head to Australia for a week-long race involving their very own hand-crafted solar car.

The solar car team set the goal high, crunching a normally 2-year project into 10 months to be ready for their international race, and two Rochester kids are helping in the possible future of transportation.

"We actually started on this car at the beginning of the school year, about 10 months ago," says Jake Herbers of Rochester.

The team is in fine-tuning mode as their race across Australia gets closer, and two contributing members to the team are representing Rochester.

"I got involved through my friend and high school classmate, Thomas Daede," explains Herbers. "He finally convinced me to join it this year, and I wish I had joined sooner."

Each member of the team has a specific role with the car. For Jake, he aided in the car's practicality.

"I was in charge of making the seats," says Herbers. "This is the first car we've built that has actual seats in it because we are going for a more practical car this year."

Thomas has been with the team for three years and is one of the members that really knows how to make it move.

"I designed the electric motor for it," explains Daede. "So we have a whole battery pack, custom suspension, wheels to hold chassis, everything we built."

Considering the condensed timeline for the project, team members are still confident that they have built a championship-caliber vehicle.

"Yes. I mean, it's been really hard and difficult, but we've got a car that works and it's definitely on par with our competitors," says Daede.

The motivation to build a solar car goes beyond a championship trophy. This team, along with their competitors, are aiding in the future of transportation.

"The technology we work on is useful for a solar car and useful for electric vehicles in general, all sorts of new transportation technologies," explains Daede.

As the minds behind future vehicles, a trip to Australia is a nice reward.

The University of Minnesota team traditionally only races inside the United States. Once the team arrives, they will be living out of tents, dealing with everything that the Outback has to offer, as they put their car to the test against international competition.

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