Electronics and Software
Engineering Innovation
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The Rotary Racer carThe aims of the IMechE Greenpower initiative is to promote engineering and technology as exciting careers, to those aged 9-21. The concept is for teams of secondary school pupils, their parents and teachers to design, build, develop and race highly efficient "green" electric racing cars. The pupils are exposed to many facets of engineering and other disciplines in doing this.
Beam Ltd has been involved with the local Chipping Sodbury school since 2006 in helping to develop a highly efficient, electric racing vehicle. Our main endeavour has been to promote engineering, especially electronics and software engineering, to the schools pupils by showing them good engineering principles and getting them involved as much as possible in the research, design and development of a real product. In so doing we have also learnt a lot more about efficient low energy systems !
The 2009 developed car, Rotary Racer 8, is the Greenpower national champion 2009. It achieved 120 miles in 4 hours using 4 car batteries as a power source. Its inequivalent petrol consumption would have been approximately: 2132 MPG

Some of the work we have been involved in includes:
  • Car ForcesProduction and support of a development website/wiki that hosts information and that the pupils can contribute to. Greenpower Website This is written in PHP.
  • Research into science and maths behind the cars performance. We have tried to present this at a level to suit secondary school pupils abilities to show them how science, maths and enginnering are closely linked. Some info on this is at: GreenpowerScience
  • Development of a web based Greenpower car simulator that allows pupils to investigate and understand the issues with improving the performance of the car. This is based on the Greenpower science work we have done with them and is written in Python. GreenSim
  • VWTDevelopment of a simple to use, web based, software virtual wind tunnel (VWT) to allow pupils to investigate the aerodynamic efficiency of their car. We host this on a 12 CPU Linux parallel compute engine. More info at: GreenVWT This uses OpenFOAM as the CFD platform.
  • Helped the team to design and develop a simple computer for data logging and controling the cars power output. The design was based on the small PIC processor systems the school was using for teaching so that the pupils could program it relatively easily. The design mainly uses through whole components and was large enough so that the pupils could easily make the boards. They had a hand in the PCB design, the building, the testing and some of the programming. CarComputer
  • Helped with the design and development of an efficient, high power MOSFET motor speed controller (> 97% at 30 Amps). Again this was designed to be simple and allow the pupils to have a large hand in making it. The pupils even made the PCB in the school etch tanks.
  • Helped with the design and development a Zigbee based radio telemetry system for the car together with display software. This allows the data logs from the car to be viewed during the race and car parameters updated.
Late WorkPCB workOne of the most difficult part of this has been getting the pupils involved as much as possible.  However, in conjunction with the parents and teachers at the school I think the team has done well at this. The pupils have given a number of presentations at different events and their knowledge and maturity has shone through. As well as all of this the car the team developed in 2009 won three races and was second in another and became the national Greenpower champions by winning at the national final at Goodwood race circuit.

LinksGoodwood race