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Appalachian vehicle finishes in sixth place in American Solar Challenge

HOT SPRINGS, S.D.—Twelve students who departed the campus of Appalachian State University on July 21 completed a 17-day journey in Hot Springs, South Dakota, on Aug. 6, finishing a nearly 2,000-mile solar car race in sixth place overall and winning three international awards along the way with their solar vehicle, Apperion.

View larger imageTeam Sunergy’s Apperion crosses the finish line of the American Solar Challenge in sixth place overall, and in second for the final stage of the 1,975-mile road race. Photo by Lee Ball.View larger imageMembers of Team Sunergy take an exuberant, if slightly soggy, selfie with their faculty advisors and supporters who greeted them at the finish line. Pictured are (from top left): Dr. Lee Ball, Dan Blakeley, Pedro Franco, Jake Barnes, Dr. Jeremy Ferrell, Brad Johnson, Duvey Rudow (center), and in front row Bailey Winecoff, Lindsay Rudisill and Abby Hastings. Photo by Lee Ball.View larger imageIn a Stage Four gain, Apperion pulls ahead of University of Michigan’s solar vehicle. Photo by Dan Blakeley.View larger imageLindsay Rudisill demonstrates her fast egress skills during the qualifying stage of the American Solar Challenge, while team members Jon Linck, Andrew Grimes and Dan Blakeley look on. Photo by Marie Freeman.View larger imageTeam Sunergy’s vehicle, Apperion, took third place in the 2016 Formula Sun Grand Prix and finished sixth in the American Solar Challenge on Aug. 8. Photo by Marie Freeman.

The American Solar Challenge (ASC) is an international competition in which collegiate competitors design, build and race solar vehicles. The 2016 cross-country race began in Brecksville, Ohio, on July 29 and ended 1,975 miles, seven states and eight days later in Hot Springs, South Dakota. The ASC race organizers partnered with the National Park Service on the route, which included stage/checkpoints at national parks and historic sites, highlighting the National Park Service Centennial.

Team Sunergy began the ASC as a solid contender, having earned third place and a podium spot in the Formula Sun Grand Prix, the qualifier for the ASC which tests both driver and vehicle endurance in a weeklong series of challenges, including a three-day track race.

Throughout the ASC, Appalachian’s team maintained a strategy of steady consistency, under the guidance of team leader Dan Blakeley, a graduate student pursuing dual degrees in engineering physics and sustainable technology. The teams faced weather challenges, including rain and heavy cloud cover, which made charging the solar-charged batteries difficult at times. On the seventh day of the race, the team made the decision to take a time penalty and recharge Apperion, which had a nearly depleted battery pack, in a stretch of sunlight along the racecourse so they could enter the final day with a full charge. This decision positioned them for a strong final day of racing – and cheers as they briefly gained on front-runner University of Michigan. They had the second-best time in the final stage of the race, and hold the distinction of being one of the only three teams to complete the final and most difficult stage of the race.

Overall winners of the race were the University of Michigan in first, Dunwoody College of Technology in second and the University of Toronto in third. In the more than two decades of the ASC, Appalachian is the first North Carolina team to enter the race. In 2016, Appalachian and Principia College were the only colleges without engineering programs to enter the competition.

In addition to their sixth-place overall rank for the ASC, Appalachian was awarded the Abraham Poot Teamwork award and driver Lindsay Rudisill won the Fastest Egress award at the ASC award ceremony held Aug. 6 at Wind Cave National Park Visitor Center in Hot Springs.

Team Sunergy consists of 12 students:

  • Team leader Dan Blakeley from Olympia, Washington, a graduate student pursuing dual degrees in engineering physics and appropriate technology
  • Jake Barnes, a junior physics major from Chapel Hill
  • Pedro Franco from Belo Horizonte, in Minas Gerais, Brazil, who completed his master’s degree in renewable energy engineering this summer
  • James Furr, a sophomore sustainable technology major from Charlotte
  • Andrew Grimes, a senior finance and banking major from Raleigh
  • Jon Linck, a senior appropriate technology major from Raleigh
  • Abby Hastings, a senior physics major from King George, Virginia
  • Jongmin Na, a senior physics major from South Korea who resided in Hickory during high school
  • Lindsay Rudisill, a senior music industry studies major from Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • David “Duvey” Rudow, a senior physics major from Asheville
  • Logan Ward, a senior physics major from Waynesville
  • Bailey Winecoff, a senior sustainable technology major from Charlotte

The team is supported by three faculty advisors: Dr. Jeremy Ferrell, assistant professor in the Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment, Chris Tolbert of the Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment, and Brad Johnson of the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Chancellor Sheri N. Everts, in her send-off remarks as the team departed Appalachian’s campus, said that Team Sunergy’s work “represents the bold, confident and pioneering attitude that so perfectly represents our campus and its vision to build a brighter future.”

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 and Astronomy 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.