HOT SPRINGS, S.D.—Twelve students who departed the campus of Appalachian State University on July 21 completed a 17-day journey in Hot Springs, South Dakota, on Aug. 6, finishing a nearly 2,000-mile solar car race in sixth place overall and winning three international awards along the way with their solar vehicle, Apperion.
The American Solar Challenge (ASC) is an international competition in which collegiate competitors design, build and race solar vehicles. The 2016 cross-country race began in Brecksville, Ohio, on July 29 and ended 1,975 miles, seven states and eight days later in Hot Springs, South Dakota. The ASC race organizers partnered with the National Park Service on the route, which included stage/checkpoints at national parks and historic sites, highlighting the National Park Service Centennial.
Team Sunergy began the ASC as a solid contender, having earned third place and a podium spot in the Formula Sun Grand Prix, the qualifier for the ASC which tests both driver and vehicle endurance in a weeklong series of challenges, including a three-day track race.
Throughout the ASC, Appalachian’s team maintained a strategy of steady consistency, under the guidance of team leader Dan Blakeley, a graduate student pursuing dual degrees in engineering physics and sustainable technology. The teams faced weather challenges, including rain and heavy cloud cover, which made charging the solar-charged batteries difficult at times. On the seventh day of the race, the team made the decision to take a time penalty and recharge Apperion, which had a nearly depleted battery pack, in a stretch of sunlight along the racecourse so they could enter the final day with a full charge. This decision positioned them for a strong final day of racing – and cheers as they briefly gained on front-runner University of Michigan. They had the second-best time in the final stage of the race, and hold the distinction of being one of the only three teams to complete the final and most difficult stage of the race.
Overall winners of the race were the University of Michigan in first, Dunwoody College of Technology in second and the University of Toronto in third. In the more than two decades of the ASC, Appalachian is the first North Carolina team to enter the race. In 2016, Appalachian and Principia College were the only colleges without engineering programs to enter the competition.
In addition to their sixth-place overall rank for the ASC, Appalachian was awarded the Abraham Poot Teamwork award and driver Lindsay Rudisill won the Fastest Egress award at the ASC award ceremony held Aug. 6 at Wind Cave National Park Visitor Center in Hot Springs.
Team Sunergy consists of 12 students:
- Team leader Dan Blakeley from Olympia, Washington, a graduate student pursuing dual degrees in engineering physics and appropriate technology
- Jake Barnes, a junior physics major from Chapel Hill
- Pedro Franco from Belo Horizonte, in Minas Gerais, Brazil, who completed his master’s degree in renewable energy engineering this summer
- James Furr, a sophomore sustainable technology major from Charlotte
- Andrew Grimes, a senior finance and banking major from Raleigh
- Jon Linck, a senior appropriate technology major from Raleigh
- Abby Hastings, a senior physics major from King George, Virginia
- Jongmin Na, a senior physics major from South Korea who resided in Hickory during high school
- Lindsay Rudisill, a senior music industry studies major from Chattanooga, Tennessee
- David “Duvey” Rudow, a senior physics major from Asheville
- Logan Ward, a senior physics major from Waynesville
- Bailey Winecoff, a senior sustainable technology major from Charlotte
The team is supported by three faculty advisors: Dr. Jeremy Ferrell, assistant professor in the Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment, Chris Tolbert of the Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment, and Brad Johnson of the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
Chancellor Sheri N. Everts, in her send-off remarks as the team departed Appalachian’s campus, said that Team Sunergy’s work “represents the bold, confident and pioneering attitude that so perfectly represents our campus and its vision to build a brighter future.”
For more information on the competition, team status and results, visit the 2016 American Solar Challenge/Formula Sun Grand Prix website at
About Team Sunergy
Appalachian State University’s internationally recognized Team Sunergy is an interdisciplinary team with a passion for sustainable transportation — and the ingenuity, innovation and drive to create it. Its premier solar car, Apperion, gained national attention with top-three finishes in the 2016 and 2017 Formula Sun Grand Prix (FSGP), an international collegiate endurance competition that sets the standards for and tests the limits of solar vehicle technology. In 2018, the team’s second, Cruiser Class car, ROSE (Racing on Solar Energy), placed third in the FSGP competition and tied for second place in the American Solar Challenge — an international solar vehicle distance road race held biennially by the Innovators Educational Foundation. In FSGP 2021, Team Sunergy captured second place in its class, advancing to the ASC and winning first place for multiple-occupant vehicles. Learn more at https://sunergy.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 20,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.
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