Section Navigation

Appalachian’s solar vehicle team places third in the Formula Sun Grand Prix

WAMPUM, Pa.—Appalachian State University’s solar vehicle team, Team Sunergy, has taken third place in the Formula Sun Grand Prix at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex in Wampum, Pennsylvania.

Under heavy cloud cover and some rain, the team completed the race on July 28 with a total of 414 laps, behind Principia College with 454 laps and University of Michigan, which took first place with 518 laps.

View larger imageAppalachian State University’s Team Sunergy celebrates their third place win at the Formula Sun Grand Prix at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex in Wampum, Pennsylvania. Pictured (left to right) are Abby Hastings, James Furr, Jon Linck, Bailey Winecoff, Jake Barnes, Logan Ward, Andrew Grimes, Pedro Franco, Lindsay Rudisill, Duvey Rudow and Dan Blakeley. Photo by Marie Freeman.View larger imageTeam Sunergy electrical director Pedro Franco monitors the battery charging for Apperion, Appalachian’s solar vehicle. Photo by Marie Freeman.View larger imageApperion, Appalachian’s solar vehicle, bears the number 828, representing its local area code. Photo by Marie Freeman.View larger imageTeam Sunergy changes a tire and during a pit stop at the Formula Sun Grand Prix at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex in Wampum, Pennsylvania. Photo by Marie Freeman.View larger imageTeam Leader Dan Blakeley gets a celebratory shower after finishing in third place in the Formula Sun Grand Prix at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex in Wampum, Pennsylvania. Photo by Marie Freeman.View larger imageAppalachian State University’s solar vehicle, Apperion, on the track at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex in Wampum, Pennsylvania. Photo by Marie Freeman.View larger imageTeam Sunergy receives their trophy at the Formula Sun Grand Prix award ceremony, held July 29 at Cuyahoga Valley Career Center in Brecksville, Ohio. Pictured are (left to right) Logan Ward, Duvey Rudow, James Furr, Jon Linck, event coordinator Gail Lueck, Dan Blakeley, Abby Hastings, Jake Barnes, Pedro Franco, Lindsay Rudisill, Bailey Winecoff, and faculty advisor Chris Tolbert. Photo by Troy Tuttle.View larger imageOn July 28, 2016, Appalachian State University’s “Team Sunergy” won third place in the Formula Sun Grand Prix. They move on to the American Solar Challenge on July 30. Photo by Troy Tuttle.

In a classic “come from behind” story, Appalachian’s team, which raced 15 other teams, surpassed colleges and universities with world-renowned engineering programs to land a podium spot in the international competition.

In 2015, Appalachian’s team entered the race but did not qualify to race on the track. This year, the team met all qualifications and was in the first group to be allowed on the track to race.

Appalachian’s team is led by Dan Blakeley, a graduate student from Olympia, Washington who is pursuing dual degrees in engineering physics and appropriate technology. Blakeley developed the idea to build the car and enter the race, and has been leading the team for two years. “To come to an event like this after two years of countless hours of work and dedication… you just can’t describe it,” said Blakeley. “It’s exciting to see how well our car performs against a bunch of other amazing schools, universities and colleges from other parts of the world.”

Jon Linck, a senior from Raleigh, North Carolina majoring in appropriate technology, serves as the pit crew boss. “We didn’t really know what to expect out here on the track,” said Linck, “but [the car] really exceeded our expectations. Now we can look forward to heading to Ohio and starting our 1,900-mile journey out west. Hopefully we can apply all the work we have done here to the [American Solar Challenge].”

Drivers for Team Sunergy are Blakeley, senior physics major David “Duvey” Rudow from Asheville, North Carolina, senior physics major Logan Ward from Waynesville, North Carolina and senior music industry studies major Lindsay Rudisill from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Other team members include junior physics major Jake Barnes from Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Pedro Franco from Belo Horizonte, in Minas Gerais, Brazil, who just completed his masters’ in sustainable technology engineering; sophomore sustainable technology major James Furr from Charlotte, North Carolina; senior finance and banking major Andrew Grimes from Raleigh, North Carolina; senior physics major Abby Hastings from King George, Virginia; senior appropriate technology major Jon Linck from Raleigh, North Carolina; senior physics major Jongmin Na from Hickory, North Carolina and senior sustainable technology major Bailey Winecoff from Charlotte, North Carolina.

The teams began the track race after passing a series of grueling inspections and vehicle and driver qualifying assessments called “scrutineering” that includes solar array inspection, battery testing, structural and mechanical vehicle components, and driving tests to verify vehicle stability and braking capability. All teams that passed the scrutineering and completed 128 1.6-mile laps in one day or 192 laps in two consecutive days have advanced to the American Solar Challenge, an eight-day 1,975-mile road course traveling through seven states from Brecksville, Ohio, to Hot Springs, South Dakota.

Appalachian’s solar vehicle team is the only North Carolina team in the competition and the only team in the South to qualify for the American Solar Challenge. This is the first time a North Carolina solar team has competed in this race.

“I honestly think we have some of the best students at Appalachian State University on this team,” said Blakely. “They are already making sure we are ready for the next event. That’s what they do – they constantly look to see how we can be better as a team and also how they can help others. If we had broken down on the side of the road today and didn’t make it to stand on the podium, I wouldn’t care, because we still did everything we came to this race planning to do.”

Still, victory is sweet for Blakeley and his team, who after holding steady in third place for two days, began the race in fourth place today. “We made a couple mistakes yesterday,” said Blakeley, “but ultimately, being consistent brought us back to third place, so not only do we get to be on the podium but we get to enter the cross-country race with our heads held high.”

An award ceremony will take place at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, July 29 at the Cuyahoga Valley Career Center in Brecksville, Ohio. The event is open to the public, and all qualifying solar vehicles will be on display before beginning the American Solar Challenge on Saturday, July 30.

For more information on the competition, team status and results, visit the 2016 American Solar Challenge/Formula Sun Grand Prix website at

About the Appalachian State University Solar Vehicle Team

Team Sunergy is a joint venture between the Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment in the College of Fine and Applied Arts and the Department of Physics in the College of Arts and Sciences. The team focuses on advancing the technology and application of sustainable transportation while inspiring current and future generations to strive towards a more sustainable future. To learn more about Team Sunergy, visit

About Appalachian

Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system, Appalachian enrolls about 18,000 students, has a low faculty-to-student ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.