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Students Innovate with Digi: University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project

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Some of the most creative applications of our products come from students. Every year, we are involved with student-led projects that are breaking new ground in industries like automotive, solar power, smart energy, and more. We support these efforts as it leads to insightful feedback on our products and fuels a talented workforce. Here is one of the many projects Digi is helping to support.

The University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project (UMNSVP) gives undergraduate engineering students a hands-on learning experience not possible in the classroom. Every two years, the team works to research new methods, design the vehicle, and build the vehicle. Daedalus is the current model in competition and just finished an arduous journey across the Australian outback. The team competed, and placed 4th, in the 2013 World Solar Challenge in Australia.

During the race, Daedalus topped out at 130 kph, or 80 mph. The vehicle uses custom design PMAC motors and motor controllers created by members of the team. The shell and chassis are composed of lightweight carbon fiber with a honeycomb build. The array is made of Monocrystalline solar cells.

The team used XBee modules as part of their telemetry system, which passes data between the solar vehicle and the team’s chase vehicle. All of the data that is transmitted on the internal Controller Area Network(CAN)  is sent through XBees to the chase vehicle.

The XBees act as a wireless extension of the CAN network. The data being transmitted includes battery status, power consumption by the motor, kill messages to turn off the vehicle, operating commands for different modules and additional information.

On their experience with XBees, the team said, “We found that they were much easier to work with than our previous radios due to the X-CTU software making them much easier to configure. The ability to drop them into preexisting headers made it easy to swap out different XBee modules with different configurations.”

To take advantage of the increased range that the XBee module provides, the team plans to implement high gain antennas in future models of the vehicle.

To see what the team is up to and where they are racing, head over to their website at www.umnsvp.org.

Are you student? Are you working with Digi products? Let us know how you are innovating on Twitter, our Facebook Page, or in the comments below. And check out the other student projects we are a part of here.

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