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Ready, set, go: Engineering students contribute with solutions for electric car race

In the engineering study programs, at Aarhus University and in society at large, the winds are blowing in the direction of the green transition. The same applies to the WestWind Challenge association, which works to promote the development of a more environmentally-friendly transport sector, headed by – among others – entertainer and electric car enthusiast, Jan Gintberg. 14 engineering students with an interest in the green transition were ready to contribute to this mission when WestWind challenge offered them a seat around the table one night in November.

Group photo from the event. Photo: Casper Silber

This spring, in Ringkøbing-Skjern Kommune, as part of the WestWind Challenge (WWC), there will be a festival focusing on fossil-free transport. As part of the festival, a big competition for electric cars will take place; the so-called “Endurance Challenge”. 

The Endurance Challenge will not be a traditional race, where it is about getting from A to B as quick as possible with a fully-charged car. The race participants must be presented with a number of challenges along the way as part of the competition, and thus form the basis for how to select a winner among the 50 competing electric cars. This was the overall challenge that the students had to work on.

Technology, infrastructure and behavior

Before the participants were allowed to "push the pedal", Jan Gintberg and Chris Kroer Jensen, CEO of WWC, made sure to prepare them for the task. 

They were briefed on developing ideas for solutions that incorporated both technological and human behavioural aspects as well as the challenges with poor charging infrastructure. They would further be judged on the originality of their ideas, the entertainment value and the degree of feasibility considering the event is scheduled for May 28th next year

As the participants included representatives from five different engineering programs at Aarhus University, they were divided into three teams and mixed to achieve the greatest possible spread in skills.

 

Power up the ideas

During the evening, the groups worked purposefully to develop concepts for the Endurance Challenge, and to accelerate the creative horsepowers, they were continuously served fuel for both brains and stomachs.

Common to the participants was a great interest in the evening's overall theme; namely future green transport, and their commitment was apparent. Jacob Svoldgaard, who studies software technology, said:

“I think we should all be interested in the green transition, and passenger cars serve as a good starting point. If we manage to solve current challenges with the charging infrastructure and make sure that there is enough green energy for the purpose, I think more people would consider buying an electric car.”

Omar Suleiman, who also studies software technology, said: 

“It is exciting to take part in finding solutions that could potentially be included in the Endurance Challenge, and feel that we are working on something that will make a difference. I think this can motivate most engineering students.”

One winner on the podium

Finally, the groups presented their solutions and competed to win first prize in the evening’s challenge. It quickly became clear that there would be a battle to the finish line. 

The decision that the panel of judges ended up making was not unanimous. It was quite a task to determine the winner because all groups presented original ideas and did a good job. However, the panel eventually agreed to announce the group "Happy Hour" as the winner. 

This group was chosen, as they had come far in terms of developing their solution, embracing the whole concept as well as including the local community and the festival participants, i.e. audience at the Endurance Challenge. In addition, they also came up with recommendations for relevant technologies that WestWind Challenge could benefit from.  

Among the winning team, spirits were high. One member of the winning team, Sissel Sofie Larsen, who studies electrical energy technology, said:

“I think this is an important cause we have contributed to tonight! It's impressive how far we can get when we sit down to work on a challenge. I look forward to seeing our ideas implemented in the Endurance Race.”

The winning team will be provided with an electric car in order to participate in the Endurance Challenge. All participants will receive tickets to WWC, which will be held on May 28th, 2022.  

Blown away

Among the representatives from WWC, the satisfaction with the evening's outcome was clear as well. Chris Kroer Jensen said:

“I am blown away by all the ingenious input we have received from the students tonight. We can use many of them directly in our further work to nail the Endurance Challenge concept, and we can implement the rest in future editions,” 

Jan Gintberg added: 
“We will steal your ideas and implement them directly in the concept. Thank you so much for your brilliant contributions!”


About the event 

WestWind Challenge Hack was organized by ORBIT Lab and RESCUE Lab, AU, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, AU, Department of Computer Science and WestWind Challenge.

The panel of judges consisted of Jan Gintberg, Chris Kroer Jensen, Björn Andresen (head of RESCUE Lab, where the event was held, and Professor in the field of Electrical Energy Technology at AU, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE)) and Litte Dalsgaard (Community Manager of ORBIT Lab, ECE).

About WestWind Challenge

WestWind Challenge is the ambition to create the world's most innovative and value-creating event platform for fossil-free transport in the Danish Municipality of Ringkøbing-Skjern. It will be an annual event that, across borders, generations and industries, seeks to encourage individuals, organizations and societies to take an active part in the development of the green transport of the future. The project is anchored in a non-profit association established by Vestas, Ringkøbing-Skjern Municipality, Aarhus University and Naturkraft. Read more on westwindchallenge.com/