Bay Area Circuits believes in the importance of STEM education and values supporting the scientists, engineers, and mathematicians of tomorrow. We are committed to helping students grow professionally in their industry. To do so, we sponsor multiple project-based collegiate clubs, whose projects range from electric vehicles to solar boats, and even rockets. Bay Area Circuits is proud to be a part of such innovative projects.
Today, we would like to highlight a recent project from the Illini Solar Car from the University of Illinois! We were able to conduct a Q&A with Rahul Kajjam, the team’s Electrical Lead.
1. What do you think gives Brizo an advantage against the other solar cars racing in the American Solar Challenge?
Brizo incorporates some top of the line electrical components, including a brushless DC dual-coil motor and some of the most efficient silicon solar cells on the market. When implemented with our fully custom electrical system and encased in a highly aerodynamic and efficient shell, Brizo has a true edge against its competitors. And while a highly efficient and reliable car is important, it is only half the battle at the competition. Accompanying Brizo will be our largest race team yet. This trained group of students has a diverse set of skills that will help tackle any problem that may arise during the race. A subset of this team will focus solely on strategy, pulling real-time data from the car and the surroundings to make informed decisions during driving.
2. Given more time, what would you have done differently in the making of Brizo?
Given more time, we would conduct more testing procedures for Brizo. Many of the electrical systems haven’t been tested in race conditions for long periods of time yet, so there could definitely be issues when stress testing these connected systems. In addition to more testing, we would also have more time for newer members to get a grasp of the various electrical subsystems, testing procedures, and integration. Since we were doing much of our work remotely, only a few people at a time were allowed to work at our garage. Now that our entire team is vaccinated, we’re able to have more people working and have many different perspectives on electrical issues. Having more time would allow our team members to learn and contribute more effectively.
3. What would you say was the most challenging part of designing the circuit boards that went into Brizo?
The biggest challenge we faced while designing the boards was the availability of parts. Many of our boards had to go through many revisions due to a specific driver or another integrated circuit being out of stock. This forced us to spend more time revising our designs and left less time for testing the functionality/efficiency. Fortunately, for our critical boards, we were able to find a way around this obstacle and revise them effectively with available components.
4. What did you utilize the PCBs from Bay Area Circuits for?
The entire electrical system on Brizo is a fully custom design made up of many important subsystems. Each subsystem contains a handful of printed circuit boards that were designed from scratch and printed by Bay Area Circuits. These boards are in charge of everything from flashing the turn signals on the car to ensuring that our battery remains in safe conditions at all times.
5. Did you have to give up on some ideas due to the constraints of the pandemic? If so, what were they?
Unfortunately, there were a few auxiliary projects which would’ve made the car much easier to drive and test with that we didn’t get time to complete. One of these projects is the tire pressure monitoring system. This would’ve provided extremely useful data for the mechanical team in order to ensure our tires are proportional and efficient. Along with this, we planned to improve the driver interface with more indicators as well as safety components. One such project is a blindspot detector which would be highly useful on the road while changing lanes or driving in general.
It is always a pleasure working with Illini Solar Car. We have been sponsoring their team since late 2017, with the SpaceX’s Hyperloop Pod competition being the very first event we sponsored boards for and Brizo being the most recent project. If you would like to follow along their journey and future projects, check them out at Illini Solar Car.