No person has ever changed the history of the world alone. Behind every great leader has been a team of people dedicated to a single cause. Through their hard work, magnificent feats have been accomplished around the globe, including the creation of the light bulb, the Pyramids of Giza, the Burj Khalifa, and the Model T.
PrISUm exists at Iowa State University as much more than a student organization one can join as a freshman, senior, or graduate student. PrISUm is an advanced Research and Design (R&D) project for the applications of renewable and automotive technology. Our members are dedicated, passionate, and skilled individuals who want to make an impact on the world around them. Through members' dedication, PrISUm is able to design, fabricate, and race our creation, raise capital, and share our story with millions, all while attending class as full time students. Interested in joining? Drop us a line and learn more directly from a member.
Building a vehicle in two years take a momentous task, one that can only be completed through hard work, perseverance, and a passion for the task at hand.
In order to change the paradigm of transportation, we have to show the world that solar powered vehicles are the future of mobility. Through our outreach efforts, PrISUm hopes to inspire future and current generations to build and drive vehicles like the ones we create.
No one knows what the future holds. Here at PrISUm, we hope to redefine what clean transportation stands for.
Since we are full time college students, we here at PrISUm think it is important to show younger generations the importance of education. By connecting what we have learned in the classroom to a real life problem, we hope to encourage students to challenge what they think is possible and pursue new answers through education.
As a non-profit organization, our ambitious goal of changing the paradigm of transportation is only possible through the help from our local community. Our open door policy allows any of our neighbors to drop by and check out what PrISUm is up to.
Building a car from scratch is a momentous task. Leading the design, fabrication, and racing of PrISUm's vehicles takes time, dedication, and a passion for changing the future. Click on the leaders' photos to find out why they chose PrISUm and what they are doing to create the world's first solar utility vehicle.
Just as in any corporation, PrISUm has divided its membership basis into sub-teams to better distribute the workload of building a car. Interested in working on one of these divisions? Contact the respective director and they will give you more information related to the subject.
The mechanical division completes a wide variety of projects in the design and manufacturing of the solar vehicle. For instance, the composites group uses cutting edge composites processing techniques to manufacture lightweight yet strong parts, such as our monocoque chassis. The structures group designs the frame and conducts finite element analysis (FEA) to analyze crash scenarios. The dynamics group designs and tests the vehicle's control and drive systems to ensure good handling characteristics, safe braking performance, and maximum efficiency. The aerodynamics group designs the aeroshell for minimal drag, then tests the model in computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software. After these groups finalize their designs, the Mechanical sub-team takes on the role of manufacturing the solar car. From aluminium billet to rims, and rolls of carbon fiber to body panels, the mechanical team cuts, paints, and machines each component by hand or by CNC until the car is ready to race.
The design of a car encompasses many systems that are seldom thought to provide the challenge they do. From headlights to brake lines, each part of the solar vehicle requires careful attention to detail which ensures the production of a high performing and reliable car. These many opportunities allow our members to take what they learned in the classroom to the next level. Our work with composites allows our members to apply material science principles with the help of professional composite manufacturers. The structures team is using advanced FEA analysis to simulate stresses and deflections to optimize and create a safer vehicle. Many members of the mechanical team are given the chance to apply a variety of subjects taught in class to the design of parts. In addition, our vehicle dynamics testing gives members hands on experience fixing and tuning a race vehicle.
The electrical division designs, manufactures, integrates, and tests all the electrical components of the vehicle, including the battery pack, solar array, control systems, motors, and connected features of the solar vehicle. This requires a broad range of work, from Printed Circuit Board (PCB) design to high level software. Almost all of the electronics on our vehicles are designed and manufactured by team members on both a hardware and software level. Our goal is to produce the most efficient and reliable system for powering, controlling, and monitoring the vehicle.
A consistently reliable electrical system can drastically change the results of a race. Furthermore, as the team is moving towards a more practical design, increasingly complex and smarter electronics are being put in the vehicle. These issues challenge our members to become masters of skills that are seldom covered in the classroom, including advanced embedded systems, PCB design, and complex software systems. Therefore, the electrical team serves as a training ground for some of the brightest electrical, computer, and software engineers at Iowa State University.
The systems division supports the team in a variety of areas. Early in the design phase, they spearhead an effort to make preliminary decisions which set criteria for design groups later on. As the team moves into its full design phase, this division establishes a primary focus on the design and integration of electrical-mechanical systems on the vehicle to avoid costly oversights. In addition, they take on the responsibility of coordinating the deadlines between the electrical and mechanical sub-groups. This is essential to ensuring that parts of the car such as the door latches, infotainment center, steering, and board mounting are not only designed to support each other but are also prototyped, manufactured and assembled to meet the timeline requirements.
Like any car on the road today, there are both complex electrical and mechanical parts that make up many of its functions. It is important that the systems which rely on both types of components properly integrate within the rest of the vehicle.
The business division deals with the team's fundraising, marketing, and community outreach. Regardless of how much work the members of the team put into designing a car, it would be impossible to build without the funds to do so. Since PrISUm is a non-profit organization and relies solely on our partners, it is one the functions of the business division to be continually building connections and reaching out to new companies.
PrISUm works to build and maintain our public image. The business division works to ensure that the team maintains a sense of professionalism aligned with our values and mission. Additionally, outreach is another main purpose of the business division. At outreach events throughout the state of Iowa, team members educate the community about renewable energy and the future of transportation. Visit the outreach page to learn more!
While students can build a car, it takes a lot of behind the scenes work to create a successful organization. Thanks to the dedication of PrISUm's faculty advisers, members are able to gain access to valuable resources throughout Iowa State University. Whether it is pointing out flaws in our rolling resistance calculations or explaining Color Theory, our advisers guide our organization to new heights.
Senior Lecturer - Mechanical Engineering
In 2010, Emmanuel Agba accepted an invitation to travel with the solar car team to the 2010 American Solar Challenge, and immediately after the race, he was invited to join the team as a faculty advisor. Emmanuel Agba has an academic background in design and manufacturing, professional experience in the industry (including more than 8 years in the automobile industry), several years of teaching experience, and personal interest in alternative sources of energy. “As I look back over the past years and months that I have worked with the club, I see my involvement in the 2010 ASC as great learning experience and a crash course on everything solar car,” says Emmanuel. Emmanuel is a faculty member in Mechanical Engineering and teaches design and manufacturing classes. He consults with Iowa State’s Center for Industrial Research (CIRAS) in the summer months and conducts research in industrial automation, computer-aided engineering, and powder-based metal additive machining.
Associate Professor and Department Chair - Industrial Design
David Ringholz is a long time industrial designer and design educator. He has extensive experience in design process, human factors, and limited-production manufacturing. Currently, he is exploring psychoacoustics and the role of sound in improving products and performance. David came to Iowa State in 2010 and immediately volunteered to be an adviser to PrISUm to establish a bridge between design and engineering. “After several cross-country trips with PrISUm, I am still astonished by what this student run club is capable of. The value of their experience extends far beyond alternative energy optimization. They are cultivating skills that will distinguish them as leaders in their fields. They deserve so much support and recognition than they are given! I am committed to helping them in any way that I can,” says David.
Founded in 1989 as a Tau Beta Pi project, PrISUm is the longest running solar car team in North America. Since our inception, PrISUm has successfully competed in every SunRayce, North American Solar Challenge, and American Solar Challenge. This is an accomplishment unique to one team in the world, and that is PrISUm.
Over the years, our team has built 13 solar powered cars and raced all across the United States and Canada. While racing is an important aspect of the team, the experience members take away from PrISUm is priceless. After participating in PrISUm, numerous team members form their own companies or rise up the leadership chain in well-respected corporations.