Ever wondered who produces Team ASCEND’s amazing videos and photos? That’s Nigel Petrie @engineeredtoslide ! But Nigel’s role on the team is way bigger than that, some might even say he is the glue that keeps Team ASCEND together. From fabrication to communication and logistics planning Nigel has a real passion for the project and has done everything in his power to make Team ASCEND a success. Nigel has even taken on the responsibility of transporting ASCEND from Geelong to Darwin!
Hear about Nigel’s involvement and his plans for transporting ASCEND 4000 km to Darwin for the 2023 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.
How did you initially get involved with the ASCEND Solar Car team?
My involvement with Ascend started in 2020 when I had a fabrication workshop at ManuFutures, Deakin University Innovation Hub, I fabricated a few components and it wasn’t until 2022 when I got a call asking if I could continue with my work and help the team get the car built. I know full well what it takes to build a car from scratch and I have now been on this project full-time for nearly 10 months.
Can you describe your role and responsibilities within the team?
My role and responsibilities change a lot and it depends on what the team needs at the time. I handle a lot of the mechanical load, from car fabrication, painting, trailer prep, logistics, testing and so much more. I have been involved in motorsport all my life and have a real passion for fabrication along with race car engineering.
One thing that not many know is that I handle all the media production, I love filming and producing photos and videos and think that this is such a huge project that it needs documenting and recording.
How do you usually collaborate with the team, and what do you find most rewarding in your interactions?
I have been with the team daily and have met some great people through this project. I mentioned it before but I have been involved in motorsport for a while and I love to see the progression that some of the students have made.
Solar car competition is an extremely difficult form of motorsport, although performance isn’t something you would usually associate with solar car racing the fundamentals of performance revolve around a lack of weight and a high degree of efficiency which has been a large priority of mine which I try and reiterate to the team.
I really look forward to the team meeting the other competitors and seeing their work perform in the field. In the 10 months I have been here I have seen the students soak up so much knowledge and learn so many new skills that just wouldn’t be accessible to them without this program.
Is there any piece of advice or wisdom you’d like to share with the team as we prepare for the big race?
I just want the students to soak up this experience and enjoy the amazing opportunities that this program opens for them, I can’t wait to start this challenge and see how the car and all our team members perform.
What are the key considerations and preparations for transporting the solar car safely?
There’s an old saying in motorsport, to finish first, first you must finish ………… In this instance just
getting to the start line is a challenge in itself and to complete this challenge we need to first get to the start line. Our University workshop lies in the Geelong suburb of Waurn Ponds nearly 4,000km away from the BSWS Challenge start line and the route heads through some of Australia’s most expansive and desolate terrain.
The logistic planning process started ramping up 6 months ago whilst the car was nearing completion, I took the width and length dimension of the Solar Car and measured my enclosed car transporter to see what modifications would be necessary for it to fit in.
Turns out our solar car is much wider and longer than the race cars that usually reside in it. To accommodate the solar car I had to cut the rear door off the Trailer and widen it along with a pair of ramps that allow the car to roll over the wheel arches and create some handy storage space underneath the car.
How long is the journey expected to take and what route will we be using?
The journey is close to 4,000km and it takes the Stuart Highway up to Darwin, this means I will get to run the Challenge route in reverse, I plan on documenting the trip with photos and video and will take some extra time to get some wildlife shots to splice into our Challenge footage. It’s an amazing countryside and I am excited to see it again.
Are there any unique challenges we might face during the transport?
I am hoping and praying for a smooth trip up to Darwin, my wife is coming with me and we love a road trip, together we have crossed America and driven in lots of different countries.
What can the team do to support you in this crucial phase?
While I am driving up to Darwin I want the team to rest and recuperate ready for a busy month when they fly up, oh and I would love it if they cleaned up the workshop