How does a team like this get started?
Student-led and student-driven, Team Sunergy describes itself as a “joint venture between the Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment in the College of Fine and Applied Arts and the Department of Physics in the College of Arts and Sciences.” The majors of the 12 team members fall predominantly into these two areas, but there are also team members from the Hayes School of Music and the Walker College of Business and the project has benefitted from every college at Appalachian.
Dr. Jeremy Ferrell, team advisor, explained the significance of the representation of the many different disciplines: “Transdisciplinary is where you go beyond just what you know, and that’s what is happening here. You see that in the diversity of majors we have [on this team]. We have a whole host of majors and they all have something they bring to the team.” Brad Johnson, who also advises the team, added that the competition gives the students critical, real-world experience with on-the-fly problem solving as a team. “It’s going to help them get jobs and [lead to] other opportunities. It’s a huge resume builder,” he said.
The team is comprised of three sub-teams: a mechanical team, an electrical team and a business team. “They are very organized,” said Ferrell, “and they have to earn their titles. By leading and taking charge and delegating and figuring out how to self-organize, they are all actively learning.”
In addition to his work at Appalachian, faculty advisor Chris Tolbert teaches and coaches electric vehicle teams at the high school level. He began working at Appalachian after seeing opportunities for high school and college students to share and develop expertise together.
“I found [that] educators weren’t comfortable instructing and coaching teams like robotics and electric vehicles and solar vehicles and these kinds of technologies in competition settings,” he said. “So I decided the only way to educate [our teachers] to do this in the real world and in public education is to give them this kind of experience at the collegiate level.” He has noticed an important educational exchange. “My high school students can help demonstrate what they know about electric vehicles and the college students can share what they are learning as well,” Tolbert said. “It’s a win-win.”
Senior sustainable technology major and pit crew boss Jon Linck, who is a non-traditional undergraduate student in that he is older than the average age of his undergraduate teammates, sees a similar advantage. “The biggest thing for me working with younger students is they’ve spent their whole lives in this frame of mind that we’re learning,” he said. “So it’s hard to be confident and apply the things we’re learning in real life.” He found himself in a mentorship role, and in this role, seemed to be discovering on site what he has to offer beyond technical expertise. “It’s empowerment,” he said. “To empower younger students to know they are doing the right thing on the track, and in school and in life,” is important to him. “You want to help generate skills they can use outside the track because that is really a skill set that’s going to be invaluable for them in real life.”
Who's on Team Sunergy?
Support, Outreach, Education and Development
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 a premier public institution, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives. App State is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System, with a national reputation for innovative teaching and opening access to a high-quality, affordable education for all. The university enrolls more than 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and 80 graduate majors at its Boone and Hickory campuses and through App State Online. Learn more at https://www.appstate.edu.
Web work by Pete Montaldi and Derek Wycoff. Video production by Garrett Ford. Photography by Marie Freeman, with additional images by Bailey Winecoff and Dr. Lee Ball. Audio production by Dave Blanks. Writing by Megan Hayes and Elisabeth Wall. Art by Jim Fleri. Editing by Linda Coutant. Logistics management by Stephanie Naoum. Technical support by Wes Craig. Creative direction and executive production by Troy Tuttle.
Special thanks to Dr. Lee Ball and Dr. Jeremy Ferrell for the context, history and on-site updates.
Shoutout to the Principia College and Iowa State University for the support, mentorship and parts you generously provided to Team Sunergy.
Very special thanks to Andrew Grimes, and every member of Team Sunergy. You are an inspiration.
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