The Eco-runner, Solar Boat, Forze, DARE, Human Power Team and all the other student teams are facing huge challenges. The Dream Hall, where the teams usually work, is closed. The teams are struggling with questions such as how do you stay 1.5 metres away from each other and will the competitions go ahead? Delta did a virtual round along some of the teams and picked up a lot of uncertainty.
Nuna Phoenix solar powered car
The Vattenfall Solar Team is confident that the new Nuna Phoenix solar powered car will race, the only question is when. Team leader Niek Hogenboom said that “We don’t know for sure if winning the American Solar Challenge [18-25 July, eds.] is a realistic goal. Safety is our highest priority. We don’t want our team to run too many health risks so we are sticking to the RIVM (Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment) guidelines.” To Hogenboom, the biggest challenge for the team is staying focussed and motivated. The members have good hope though as on Instagram they shared the message ‘Our team coach Marc Lammers is an expert in team building and is helping our team to perform at the highest level despite the circumstances’.
DARE’s Stratos rocket
As physical building work is out of the question at the moment, the student teams are devising all sorts of other activities. The DARE student team designs a rocket every year called the Stratos. Antonio López Rivera, commissioner for external relations, says that this is now impossible. “So we are now mostly concentrating on documentation and are working from home on the electronics and the simulations. We are also organising digital ‘game nights’ and video calls to keep our solidarity going.” The DARE team is keeping their spirits up and even made a joke on their Instagram account: “We DARE you all to practice social distancing and do your best to limit the spread of the virus!”
VeloX recumbent bicycle
Every year the Human Power Team builds an aerodynamic recumbent bicycle, the VeloX. Production of the VeloX TX, which means ‘fast’ in Latin, has been completely stopped for the time being. The team manager Valerie van der Broek says that “Our greatest challenge is to make sure that our VeloX TX is ready for the race. We are doing everything we can to be well prepared so that we can resume work as soon as we can start production again. We are also recruiting – digitally – new team members.” The team is sharing a series of Instagram photos to show how its members are working together from their respective homes.
In their work for Project March, the students still sometimes work on the exoskeleton, which is kept in a team member’s house. The student team is building an exoskeleton which people with spinal cord injuries can use to stand up and walk. The competition in which the team is competing, the Cybathlon, has been moved from March to September. The PR commissioner, Martine Keulen, says that their major challenge is “Not being able to train. We usually train a lot with our pilot Sjaan Quirijns, who controls the exoskeleton, in this period which is normally the production and assembly phase. Sjaan then walks with the exoskeleton and sometimes practices with new obstacles. This allows us to see if our new additions work and what we still need to improve. We can’t do this now.” Project March has shared photos on Instagram on how they are coping with working from home.
The Solar Boat Team is highly driven and the students are finding it hard to handle the uncertainty that is hanging over their competitions, says exposure manager Ruben van Es. “The only thing we know right now is that all the races in May have been postponed. For the competitions that are scheduled for later in the year, we have to wait for the Government guidelines. The Solar Boat launch was to be held on 7 May, but that too has been postponed.”
In the meantime, the team is investing in the personal development of the team members and is thinking about what it can add to the battle against the coronavirus. On Instagram they showed a digital cookery workshop that they held last week to keep the team spirit going.
All-in all, the student teams are definitely not giving up and are trying different ways of using their time constructively. It is not whether, but when they can get their projects ready for competition.