ASC 2012 Summary


Impulse at the finish line in St. Paul, Minnesota.


While I rigorously documented the preparation, travel, and qualification needed to compete in ASC 2012, I was unable to do the same for ASC itself, because I had little to no free time on my hands during that week. The irony of the situation is palpable, as this entire series of blog posts has been about ASC and yet I have woefully little to say here.


This is a quick summary of how ASC went down.

We started out in Rochester, New York at the RIT campus. The rayce lasted 8 days and was separated into 5 stages; stage 1 spanned 1 day, stages 2, 3, and 4 each spanned 2 days, and the final stage spanned 1 day, adding up to a total of 8. These were our stage results, out of 10 teams competing:

Qualifying (starting position, from FSGP results): 9th

Stage 1: 7th

Stage 2: 5th

Stage 3: 3rd

Stage 4: 3rd

Stage 5: 3rd

Overall: 4th!


We were very happy with our results, to say the least. Even though 4th is an unfortunate place to be in (the other teams got cool trophies), we were able to complete the entire race on solar power alone, which was our #1 goal for the event. All of the other 6 teams (the ones who placed behind us) needed to trailer their car to a checkpoint at one time or another, whereas we were able to drive Impulse the entire way without ever having to trailer it. This is better than CalSol has done for a long time, and it has allowed us to put UC Berkeley on the map in the realm of competitive solar car raycing.


While our result means a lot to the team, what’s more relevant to this blog is what it means to me. I have been involved with CalSol for the past couple of years, and invested hundreds of hours in the project of building and raycing Impulse. To be able to see this effort manifest itself through competing (and even driving the car) in ASC 2012 was exhilarating and allowed me to reach a sense of closure with the team. It validated all of the time and effort I’ve put into the car. And by the end of it, I’ve learned a ton, experienced things that most people will never experience, and forged valuable friendships that will last a lifetime. Being on CalSol has been an incredibly rewarding experience, and I don’t regret for a second the work I had to put into it.


Now you know the results and what it meant to me, but I also want to give you a sense of what the race environment itself felt like. The days were relatively formulaic.

5.30 am: Wake up, get ready, eat breakfast, pack up the cars, head out to the starting area

7 – 9 am: Charging time (we get to charge our cells for two hours every morning and every night without driving)

9 am – 6 pm: Rayce time! This is actually more complicated than it seems. There is a system of checkpoints and stage stops, which basically say that we need to be at location X by time T, plus a bunch of other rules that we needed to understand for our strategy but which you don’t care about. Anyways a full day of driving would require each of our 3 drivers to drive about 3 hours. Our driver order would be dependent on the topography of the day’s route – we wanted our heaviest driver going downhill and our lightest one going uphill, with myself (the middle) driving on the plateaus. I drove in the rain because I was the most experienced at driving in rainy conditions. Occasionally we had to pull over for tire changes, and we ate lunch in the cars.

6 pm – 8 pm: Evening charging time. We either cooked food for ourselves during this time, or went back to our hotel and ate out. There were also a couple times when we received free food at stage stops, where events were sometimes held (notably at the UM stage stop, since they have loyal sponsors who like to feed us).

Nighttime: We would check into our hotel, get settled into our rooms, dick around for a while (sometimes we were lucky enough to have a pool that we could cool off in!) meet up and discuss strategy for the next day, and sleep around 11 pm. Going to sleep later than that would mean being tired throughout a long day of driving – major no-no.

Even though it was stressful at times, this was so much fun. Waking up early, while tough for me, felt really good, because I was taking full advantage of the day. Even when not driving Impulse, I usually hung out in lead car, which allowed me to do fun things like navigate the complex route, communicate with chase car and other teams’ caravans over several radio systems, debate rayce strategy, scout out weather along the route on my smart phone, and take pictures. The morning and evening charging time allowed us time to socialize with other teams, and it was especially fun when campuses hosted events and gave us delicious food. All in all it was a great experience and it was so worth sacrificing my summer for. And that’s not even counting the trip there and back, separate from the race, which was actually even more fun. I’ll talk about that in my next post.


This race was a way to prove to myself that I could rise to a challenge. I pushed myself to exist for the sake of a competition and devote my body and my mind to solving problems, planning logistics, working with a team, being a leader, and racing a solar car. Most of the time, I just waste time on reddit or facebook or dominion online. I try to do homework but I get distracted. I hang out with people when I have work I need to do. I rarely felt this way during the race. There was always something to do and always some way I could apply myself, and there was constant external motivation pushing me and forcing me to get things done. I wish that this motivation could follow me into my school work and my other pursuits. Perhaps one day it will, but for that week I felt like I was truly maximizing my time, and that’s a feeling that i don’t get often.


This is perhaps an unsatisfying ending considering how much detail was put into the entries leading up to this one, but I didn’t think it was interesting to keep going into depth. Either way, this was an experience that words could not do justice. If you want to know more, ask me about it some time.


We got 4th in the US! WOOOOOOOO

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