Sonke Siyakude Solar Team

TEAM | Sonke

CAR NAME | Siyakude!

COUNTRY | South Africa

CLASS | Challenger

Sonke is a high school team from South Africa who competed for the very first time in any solar car event during the 2018 Sasol Solar Challenge. Fifty students aged 13 - 19 from St Alban’s College and St Augustine’s LEAP School came together to build their very own challenger to compete with in 2018.

Sonke means “together”, while the car name Siyakude means “we will go far”.

The students designed and built the car from scratch themselves. To guide them, the schools set up a steering committee of parents, staff and former students who had expertise in aerodynamics, mechanics and electrical engineering.

The team went on two special camps dedicated to preparing for the Sasol Solar Challenge. In this dedicated space, they designed the car, tested the wheels and solar panels, and were supervised in soldering, crimping, connecting batteries and programming the onboard telemetry system. They also underwent extensive safety briefings.

The build was also used as material for their regular curriculum. In one of the school’s science labs, car designs were scribbled on a glass window, and a square box covered in fibre glass was evidence of the team practising their fibre-glassing skills.

St Alban’s science teacher and Sonke team manager, Rob Lodge, let the students chose from three different chassis types for their challenger. They chose a Formula V type chassis because it is light and aerodynamic.

The kids first built a wooden model of the car. They then tested wheels and solar panels before building its body. They received outside help for the more complicated parts of the build, like welding the chassis.

The learning didn’t stop with the Sonke team. Along the route, they executed solar power demonstrations using solar-powered toy cars for schools in the hope of inspiring the future generation of engineers.  This was the only school team to participate in the 2018 Sasol Solar Challenge.

The High School collaboration, Team Sonke covered an admirable 656.9 kilometers with their first ever solar car, something which the two schools hope to repeat in coming years, given sponsorship.