Professor Banerjee has recently started offering a new course entitled Solar Car. The course objective is to show students early in their curriculum that a multidisciplinary understanding is essential to create a complex system. UIUC’s own Solar Car “Argo” is taken as an example. The course covers high-level aspects of the design, construction, analysis, and economics of solar-powered electric vehicles. Understanding the business and operations side of running a solar car team embolden students as they start putting on the hat of an entrepreneur. Topics bridge a variety of engineering disciplines integrated with business to present a cohesive overview highlighting complexities of solar-powered vehicles. Students are expected to gain hands-on experience working with the Solar Car Team to build the next solar car. In-class presentations provide a platform for individuals to convey ideas and contributions to a multidisciplinary audience.
The instruction involves several faculty from the Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Science and Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, Computer Science, and Business Administration. Further, every semester guest lecturers are invited from the Board of Directors, Innovators Educational Foundation (IEF)—the organizational body that runs American Solar Challenge. For example, in Spring 2019, Ms. Gail Lueck, the Operational Director of IEF, visited the Illinois campus, gave a seminar to the team about different aspects of the race, and went for site visit of the team’s building yard to encourage students to get involved in these types of beyond-classroom activities. This Fall, Dr. Paul Hirtz, a member of the IEF Board of Directors, will be giving an invited seminar on Time and Project Management—extremely important for students to understand when they have a deadline to show up to a race.
In Spring 2019, 16 students registered for the course and the current registration for Fall 2019 is 19, out of which many are Freshman and Sophomores. Currently, Professor Banerjee has requested the ECE department to make this a permanent course.