Collegiate cross-country solar race to come through Kalamazoo

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Photo of WMU's Sunseeker solar racecar.

WMU's solar racecar, Sunseeker

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University's famed solar racecar, Sunseeker, is getting ready to race this summer in a cross-country solar competition that will track a course through the heart of Kalamazoo.

The 2012 American Solar Challenge, a biennial collegiate race, begins July 14 in Rochester, N.Y., and ends eight days later in St. Paul, Minn. Solar race teams from around the world will cover the more than 1,600- mile course and make mandatory overnight and checkpoint stops all along the route. Kalamazoo and WMU's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences will serve as a mid-day checkpoint Tuesday, July 17.

Solar race entries, which travel the roads alongside normal traffic, will come through downtown Kalamazoo on Michigan Avenue, Kalamazoo Avenue, Westnedge Avenue, Lovell Street, then along Stadium Drive to Drake Road and south on Drake to WMU's Parkview Campus, where the engineering college is located. Leaving the checkpoint, the racing teams will take Parkview Avenue to Oakland Drive and Oakland to Shaver Road and then follow US-131 south.

Teams are expected to begin arriving at the engineering college around noon and must stay there for at least an hour before departing on the next leg of the race, giving the public an opportunity to talk with teams and check out their cars while they are in town.

The 2012 event marks the 11th time since 1990 that a WMU team has participated in international solar race events featuring the best engineering schools from the United States and Canada. The University's team has finished in fifth, sixth place and twice in eighth place and has captured best design awards in post-race ceremonies. WMU is one of only a handful of schools in North America to have participated in all previous races.

Teams compete by bypassing traditional fuel tanks to pull all of their power from the sun. This year, entries from 22 colleges and universities are slated to race. Of those, three are Michigan schools this year. The University of Michigan has a longstanding solar racing effort, while Michigan State University will field a rookie team in the event.

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