A group of Mid Sussex students believe they are the first in Europe to take up an engineering challenge to design, build and race a solar-powered car 3,000 miles across Australia.
The Ardingly College pupils are backed by car makers including McLaren, Jaguar and Prodrive with help in computer aided design by specialists SolidWorks and Nt CADCAM.
Their aim is to compete in the 2015 World Solar Challenge, racing from Darwin to Adelaide. MP Francis Maude described the initiative as ‘breathtaking’.
Cambridge University brought its 2011 world-beating solar car to the college for the project’s official launch on Saturday.
Engineer and the Cambridge University car’s driver last year, Lucy Fielding, described her journey across Australia with tales of Australian customs confiscating vital parts, kangaroos, cattle grids and bush fires.
She said: “From professional engineering companies to students, the aim is to help pursue a future with sustainable cars.
“Every time we cross the line a bit faster, we are helping to change the world. It is an incredible journey and we are standing right behind Ardingly.”
Sixth former Patrick Cooke, 16, said Ardingly believed it was the first school outside Australia to design, build and race a solar car.
He said: “We’ve been inspired by Cambridge and Stanford Universities’ own solar cars, by Britain’s vehicle manufacturers, engineering and industrial design professionals and by businesses who’ve taken us under their wing.
“We couldn’t do any of this without their support and the drive of our teachers, especially our Head of Physics Andrew Spiers.”
So far £40,000 has been pledged and the final project is expected to cost £250,000.
Sixth formers Patrick Cook and Oscar Baker, both from Lindfield, led presentations to sponsors, engineers and business people on Saturday on the challenges they faced.
McLaren vehicle development team leader Robert Tyler spoke on the importance of training young engineers and the role McLaren plays in encouraging engineering excellence while David Pierpoint, a divisional director of DHL, said the company was interested in developing and supporting links between education and industry and between green energy and logistics.
David Smith, former CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, and now CFO of Edwards, the Sussex high technology company, said the project was an excellent way for students to engage in an exciting area of new technology.