Date of Defense


First Advisor

Dr. Koorosh Baghshineh


Western Michigan University's solar car, Sunseeker, has competed in five solar car races since 1990. After the most recent race, the Sunseeker team determined that the frame needed to possess a higher stiffness and lower weight. It was noted that several cars in the competition utilized composite frames in their designs. Composite materials have a specific strength that is much higher than metals. This led to the idea of utilizing composite materials for the frame of a solar car. A house of quality was developed to determine the most important characteristics. These characteristics were bending and torsional strength. Through testing of the 1999 WMU solar car, these characteristics were measured and a graphical analysis was conducted. Three separate preliminary designs were modeled in Pro/Engineer, each utilizing a different composite material. Using Finite Element Analysis, the feasibility of using composites as a frame material was determined by comparing the testing and analysis results. The model that utilized a laminated core showed the greatest promise as an alternate construction material. Further validation is still needed to confirm its feasibility.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Campus Only