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Monday, May 29, 2023

The future is bright for the UF Solar Gators — if it can pay its power bill.

The Solar Gators started in Fall 2011 with the goal of designing and building a solar-powered car to race this summer. Now, with the start of the Spring semester, the team faces a problem: The time to fundraise is running out.

The team aims to compete in the 2013 Formula Sun Grand Prix in Texas, one of the most prestigious solar car competitions in the nation.

The team’s fundraising goal is $60,000, which includes building and designing the car and travel expenses.

“Funding-wise, we’re about a quarter of the way there,” said Jason Rosen, a 20-year-old UF materials science and engineering junior and team captain. “At the same time, we’re getting ready to order parts.”

The competition will feature teams from different universities from across the country.

The winners of the race don’t receive prize money, but something even more valuable: bragging rights and more sponsors, said Joseph Herrera, a 24-year-old UF fifth-year mechanical engineering student and head of the team’s mechanical engineering department.

The Solar Gators are in the process of deciding how to order parts in a timely manner with the funding it already has. Some parts must be specially made and can take up to four months to be built.

Kanaga Ragav, a 24-year-old UF second-year electrical engineering master’s student and head of the team’s electrical engineering department, said his section takes up most of the team’s budget, and picking parts for the car requires delicate planning.

“We have to choose parts we can test individually throughout the whole system,” he said. “So we have to select those components and then accordingly look at the budget elsewher.”

Rosen said the team currently has three sponsors to help fund the project. One of the sponsors includes Solar Impact, a local solar energy installation company.

Barry Jacobson, president of Solar Impact, said he was enthusiastic to support the Solar Gators.

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“My wife and I were both undergrad and grad students at UF, and these type of projects really were what made our time there,” he said. “This was the perfect opportunity to contribute to the community.”

So far, the team has compiled a list of 200 potential local companies.

“At this point, out of sheer desperation, we’re going to be cold calling,” he said. “We’re going to get 99 nos for every yes — but every yes counts.”

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