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Power of the sun

Anywhere you go in the world, there is probably a Jamaican in the mix making great things happen. Jamaican, Lauren Chai is a member of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) group of students who recently created a solar-powered vehicle.

The Solar Electric Vehicle Team (SEVT) is a student organisation at MIT founded in 1985 and is dedicated to demonstrating the practicality of alternative-energy transportation.

The final-year mechanical engineering major is a past student of Immaculate Conception High School. In an email interview with Flair, she admitted that growing up, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to become, but “around age 10 when I found the Discovery Channel and science-fiction, I decided I wanted to work with science”.

Now she shares the MIT campus with her twin sister, Elaina, who is majoring in electrical engineering and physics, but is focusing on work in computer architecture.

“We both like building things, though in different fields (mechanical vs electrical). It makes for a large variety of dinner conversation,” said Chai .


She noted that when she first migrated to the United States for school, adjusting was difficult.

“I had gone to the United States and Canada, but mainly to visit my extended family. Going to school there, I had to re-evaluate my own expectations of how people behave, even as I was adjusting to other people in the school making assumptions about me as a Jamaican.”

Since the inception of SEVT, the group has developed 10 cars. For someone like Lauren, who is always building things, designing the car was right up her ally. She explained that the process begins with research into what new technologies are available and brainstorming about the car and sharing ideas on how it can be improved. Then there is the finalisation of the requirements and design. “This is followed by construction and then testing before we finally race the car.”

She said that unlike electric cars, the development of the solar car is, “more like proof-of-concept projects about the power of solar power. Factors such as usability and cost are sacrificed in order to make this car perform as well as it does in terms of speed and power. (This does not) make it economically viable compared to the cars currently on the market”.

So you may not be able to get one in your garage any time soon.

But who knows? After graduation she will be heading to graduate school.

Her advice to Jamaican students? “Be more effective about how you learn and work. If a task takes 30 minutes to make mediocre, can you figure out how to do it in 28 minutes and be awesome? If you have a choice in work, pick the work that will make you the most excited – it won’t feel as tedious and you will tend to do a much better job. If you don’t have a choice, try to do well anyway because future employers and admissions committees for schools want to see that you can succeed at whatever is handed to you to do, regardless of how you feel about it.”

Category/ies:Jamaica News.
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