UC Merced Connect: Meeting the solar challenge

November 27, 2012 

As part of its annual conference, Engineers for a Sustainable World held its first interchapter challenge, asking teams to create sustainable remote-controlled cars, and the University of California at Merced's team took home second place.

The cars could be built or retrofitted, but they had to be solar-powered, use capacitors rather than batteries for storage, and cost less than $150. They also had to be able to maneuver an obstacle course and compete in a drag race.

UC Merced's team consisted of two students, Brennan Stevenson, a mechanical engineering student from Saugus, and Jaskiranjeet Sodhi, a bioengineering major from Half Moon Bay, though about a dozen students attended the conference.

Peter Ferrell, president of the UC Merced student chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World, said those who take part get a great deal from the experience, including attending workshops, networking with and learning from other chapters and the industry's leading professionals, inspiration and lots of discussion about projects.

According to a report from the Engineers for a Sustainable World newsletter, five schools competed in the sustainable car competition — UC Merced, UC San Diego, Penn State, the Rochester Institute of Technology and the University at Buffalo.

Three entries used similar designs, with large panes of solar panels mounted on stripped-down wheelbases, the newsletter said. UC Merced engineering students mounted solar panels on a standard remote-controlled car, which, the report said, had all the speed of a standard car, but needed maximum power to negotiate turns.

One fish, two fish ...

Counting the number of species that live in Earth's oceans sounds as impossible as counting the grains of sand on a beach.

But a global collaboration involving a UC Merced researcher and a graduate student is doing just that, and found that about a third of all the oceans' species have gone undescribed.

Professor Michael Dawson, a jellyfish expert, and graduate student Liza Gómez Daglio contributed information about these invertebrates to an initiative led by the World Register of Marine Species.

According to a paper published in mid-November — written by 120 experts, including Dawson and Gómez Daglio — 226,000 oceanic species have been described and there are an additional 70,000 awaiting descriptions in specimen collections.

UC Merced Connect is a collection of news items written by the University communications staff. To contact them, e-mail communications@ucmerced.edu.

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