New Dutch Team Aims for the Top
08 Aug 2019
From Vattenfall (formerly Nuon Solar Team) to Solar Team Eindhoven, the Dutch are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to solar car challenging.
Vattenfall have won the Challenger class in the past two editions of the BWSC, with Solar Team Eindhoven equally strong in the Cruiser Class. Eindhoven Alumni Lex Hoefsloot and some of his fellow former team mates have also gone on to design and create Lightyear One, the world’s first commercially available solar vehicle. For any new coming team, those are some big shoes to fill. Enter Top Dutch Solar Racing.
Two and a half years ago, four students from the Hanze University of Applied Sciences in Groningen wanted to expand their University life outside their studies, and do something that had never been done in the North of the Netherlands.
The Benelux region – comprising the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg – has a strong history with the BWSC, and solar challenging around the world. So, why not join them?
They were serious, too. While they began forming their team just prior to the 2017 edition of the Challenge, they weren’t going to miss the opportunity to start preparations.
“One of our team members and one partner – Ray and Danny – joined the BWSC 2017 to see what to look out for in 2019, how other teams were performing, and what we can learn from them”, Top Dutch’s team manager Jeroen Brattinga tells us.
A long way to travel, more than 10 times the distance of the BWSC, for reconnaissance.
They’re not completely new to the world of solar technology competitions, either. As Jeroen explains, some of their team members have participated in the Solarteam ROC Friese Poort Sneek, TU Delft Solarboatteam and Ús Boat Friesland College, Dutch solar boat teams. Other team members have also had internships in engineering companies.
In addition to this experience some of the team members bring, they’re fully stocked. As well as the usual Engineering students you might find in a lot of the BWSC teams, they’ve got students with varied backgrounds, including Human Resource Management, and Communication.
“[Our team] consists of 27 students from 4 different schools and over 10 different study programs. More than half of the team does not even have an engineering background.”
“Although everyone has their own interests, we are all united by our willingness to put things we learn in our schools into practice and develop ourselves as professionals, individuals and as a team.”
For any team, preparations for the BWSC are hard. They work day and night for months on end, building and perfecting a solar car of their own design and making, not forgetting the mission of preparing for a 3000km journey through some of the most remote landscape in the world. But as Top Dutch explains, it’s not that they are experiencing more challenges than the established teams, but the nature of these challenges are different.
“We have been facing many challenges while building up our team to how it stands right now. Combining people from different study backgrounds and the communication between each other is something we have been working on since over 6 months now and although it is very difficult, we see how our team makes big progress. Besides, time management and the combination of school and project is something most of our team members are struggling with.”
“While other solar teams can rely on the experience and advice of previous generations, our team had to work out every design, every meeting and every day of our travel in Australia on our own. That gives us also the chance to get more creative and innovative, see no boundaries and create something that is to 100% ours.”
For any Solar Challengers, an essential part of the preparation process is putting tools down, getting out of their workshops, and working on the most important part of the Challenge – their team.
“Our team really likes to come together in a relaxed environment and have some nice talks with each other. We often visit our favorite Irish pub, O’Malley’s, to enjoy some Guinness and live music, barbeque together, have a movie night or meet at each other’s houses. During the last weeks we had a pretty high work load, which is why our team activities got a little bit less. That is also why we look forward to sending our solar car to Australia in the beginning of August, so we can enjoy some more relaxed weeks together!”
With many teams still finalizing their vehicles, with under 70 days to go until they set off from Darwin, it’s clear Top Dutch have their ducks in a row. But, coming up against not only their fellow Dutch competitiors, but some of the best teams in the world – Tokai, University of Michigan, Western Sydney Solar, just to name a few – what gives them the competitive edge?
“What makes [us] special is the mix of students from different educational institutions. Most of our team members are from Universities of Applied Sciences and vocational schools, called HBO and MBO in the Netherlands. Many people tend to look down on those schools and do not realize the big potential that students bring with them, including experience in practical work.”
The newcomers will be diving head first into the experience in just a couple of weeks. The team plans to road trip from Port Augusta in South Australia up to Darwin to get a bit of camping experience in before they hit the ground running with the rest of the teams.
“We cannot wait to meet other solar teams from all over the world, reunite with our friends from the Netherlands and Belgium and have a nice experience together!”
Wherever they place, Top Dutch Solar Racing have shown that building a brand new team for the BWSC is an incredible opportunity, and more than possible if you have a group of like minded people that just want to be the best they can be.
“We hope to be able to show to the rest of the world what students with a non-university background can do, represent the North of the Netherlands and show what is possible to accomplish with a lot of hard work, ambitiousness and teamwork. We want to inspire future generations and show that you can achieve anything if you just work hard enough. We want to get the best out of us, as individuals and as a team, and achieve the best possible result for us.”
The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge runs from October 13 - 20 2019, starting in Darwin and finishing in Adelaide, South Australia.
Images courtesy of Top Dutch Solar Racing.