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Community help is sought for 1997 solar car race

To help finance its 1997 entry into a 1,200-mile race to defend its 1995 championship title, The MIT Solar Electric Vehicle Team (SEVT) has begun an Adopt-a-Cell campaign.

The new effort aims to bring the entire MIT community into the effort to help defray expenses, which are projected to be about $185,000, said Diana Buttz, a sophomore in mechanical engineering and the team member in charge of the vehicle's solar array as well as Adopt-a-Cell. The money will be used to build a new vehicle called Manta GT, successor to Manta, which won Sunrayce 95. In that race, which ran last June between Indianapolis and Denver, MIT beat out 37 other university teams to finish first with a total time of 33 hours, 37 minutes, 11 seconds. Sunrayce 97 in June 1997 will follow the same course.

For $50 per cell, sponsors will get their names (and a link to their personal or corporate Web pages, if desired) on the SEVT home page, which is now accessed by more than 850 users per month. Sponsors will also receive a card showing where their solar cell is located on Manta GT, which will be covered with a solar array that collects energy from the sun to power the vehicle. Those who adopt two or more cells receive the unused portions of the cells they sponsored. The team plans to purchase about 2,500 of the 10cm-by-10cm cells, though many will be trimmed to fit the contours of the car, leaving unused pieces.

Team members will begin building Manta GT next month and expect to have it completed and ready to go within a year. In a departure from the Sunrayce 95 rules, vehicles must be ready several months before the actual race to allow time for more extensive safety testing beforehand.

Manta GT will be similar in appearance to its predecessor, though it will have a more efficient motor that requires 1,450 watts at 55mph instead of 1,800 in Manta. There will also be an improved solar array, and the body will be slightly larger and more aerodynamic. "We're trying to make a car that's more advanced and more efficient," Ms. Buttz said.

Anyone wishing to take part in the Adopt-a-Cell campaign can contact Ms. Buttz at x3-6140 or . The team's Web page is at .

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 24, 1996.

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