Musings on a Sankey diagram of FSGP/ASC 2018

On my flight back to Waterloo for my CS convocation ceremony, I was thinking about all the things I've accomplished throughout my undergraduate career at the University of Waterloo.

One of the things I'm perhaps the most proud of is how I was able to start working essentially from scratch with a group of naive 2nd year students, and successfully (for some definition) design, build, and race a car that we ended up driving over 2,800 km across the United States. Our team had emerged with the previous car, MS XI, after essentially a 4-year hiatus where a bunch of first-years were given haphazardly strewn plans for a car we didn't design, and were told to get things working. It was a bright-orange monstrosity that barely worked, and so actually showing up at competition with MS XII was a surprise for most people.

However, there were many other teams that also attempted to do so, and were not successful. I remembered seeing a discussion on the /r/solarracing subreddit about how teams showing up to FSGP/ASC seemed to be less prepared than their ESC counterparts, so this prompted me to figure out what the life-cycle of the competition looked like, and where teams tend to lose their way.

Through judicious use of the Wayback Machine's web archives of the FSGP/ASC 2018 pre-event team status website, I was able to manually pull enough data to create a visualization.

School List

Here's a list of all the schools that were registered. In total, 40 teams made their intent known to the ASC organization that they planned on attending.

For some schools, they exclusively race in the World Solar Challenge, while other schools race both the American Solar Challenge and the World Solar Challenge (seeing as WSC is on odd-numbered years, and ASC on the even-numbered years), while others race FSGP/ASC, and still others race as their budget allows (which includes attending other competitions like SASOL, ESC, etc.).

School Team # Class
University of Michigan 2 SOV
University of Kentucky 3 SOV
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 4 SOV
University of Florida 5 SOV
University of California, Berkeley 6 SOV
Anderson University 7 SOV
University of Texas at Austin 8 SOV
Iowa State University 9 MOV
Cairo University 10 MOV
Northwestern University 11 SOV
Western Sydney University 15 SOV
Illinois State University 17 SOV
University of California, San Diego 18 SOV
University of Illinois 22 SOV
University of Waterloo 24 MOV
Principia College 32 SOV
University of Minnesota 35 MOV
Missouri Science & Technology 42 SOV
Georgia Institute of Technology 49 SOV
Polytechnique Montreal 55 SOV
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville 57 SOV
University of Calgary 65 MOV
Rutgers University 66 SOV
New Jersey Institute of Technology 86 SOV
University of Virginia 87 SOV
St. Petersburg Polytechnic University 89 SOV
Western University 96 SOV
North Carolina State University 99 MOV
ETS Quebec 101 SOV
McMaster University 116 SOV
University of California, Irvine 201 SOV
University of California, Riverside 221 SOV
Oregon State University 256 MOV
Purdue University 314 SOV
University of Southern California 420 SOV
University of Bologna 559 MOV
Western Michigan University 786 SOV
University of Puerto Rico – Mayaguez 787 SOV
Appalachian State University 828 MOV
Alfaisal University 966 SOV

Sankey Diagram

Here's a Sankey diagram that depicts the breakdown of teams that were, at one point or another, involved in preparations for FSGP/ASC 2018.

Sankey diagram of the breakdown of teams

2018 was the first year that ASC formally recognized Multi-Occupant Vehicles (MOVs) in the competition. As such, there were 6 teams that initially had registered for the competition under the MOV class, with the last 2 dropping out before FSGP:

  1. University of Waterloo
  2. University of Minnesota
  3. University of Bologna
  4. Appalachian State University
  5. University of Calgary
  6. North Carolina State University

I believe those 2 teams (Calgary and North Carolina) will be attending FSGP 2019 this year instead.

These 2 teams weren't unique in their situation. Looking at the collected data, there were a significant number of teams that dropped out and did not bring a car to FSGP. 20/40 teams did so—or 50% of the teams that originally registered for the competition fell in this category. Some of these teams still attended the event as observers, while others outright didn't attend:

  1. Anderson University
  2. University of Texas at Austin
  3. Cairo University
  4. University of California, San Diego
  5. Principia College
  6. University of Calgary
  7. Rutgers University
  8. New Jersey Institute of Technology
  9. University of Virginia
  10. Western University
  11. North Carolina State University
  12. McMaster University
  13. University of California, Irvine
  14. University of California, Riverside
  15. Oregon State University
  16. Purdue University
  17. University of Southern California
  18. University of Puerto Rico – Mayaguez
  19. Alfaisal University

To me, this number seems high, but there also are quite a few new teams on the list, which might help explain things.

I think part of the struggle that teams face is setting a reasonable timeline and scoping out your work to allow for the 2-year build-cycles that top teams have down pat. We were definitely guilty of trying to do more than we could comfortably finish—there were all these features that we initially set out to add that became relegated to "nice-to-haves" and eventually left unfinished as deadlines began approaching.

Unfortunately, there were two teams that did not pass scrutineering, and thus were not able to drive on the track and compete in FSGP. This also meant that they weren't able to qualify for ASC:

  1. University of Kentucky
  2. Missouri Science & Technology

From what I heard, Missouri Science & Technology ran into EMC issues with their BMS, which basically shot their chances of passing BPS scrutineering. On the other hand, Kentucky suffered a catastrophic suspension failure during dynamics, which put their car out of commission for the competition.

These teams passed dynamic scrutineering, but did not demonstrate their car's reliability by driving enough laps at FSGP to qualify normally for ASC:

  1. University of Florida
  2. Iowa State University
  3. Illinois State University
  4. St. Petersburg Polytechnic University

Iowa State ran into problems with their custom BMS—I believe now they're planning on going with an Orion BMS, which seems to be a popular choice among the solar racing community.

These teams were close enough to qualifying that they were given a provisional qualification status. This meant that they needed to either reach the first checkpoint before it closed, or complete the entire first stage without trailering their vehicle:

  1. Appalachian State University
  2. University of Waterloo
  3. Western Michigan University
  4. Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Out of the 4 teams granted a provisional qualification status, only 2 teams were able to become a fully qualified ASC 2018 team, after meeting the provisional qualification requirements. Incidentally, both teams did so by reaching the first checkpoint in time:

  1. Appalachian State University
  2. University of Waterloo