Racing through the Australian Outback with a little help from Greatwaves


From Darwin to Adelaide, a race of around 3000 kilometers through the unforgiving Australian outback. In less than two weeks, the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge will kick off in high gear, and the Top Dutch Solar team competing for the first time, with a little help from last year’s Startup in Residence participant Greatwaves.

The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge takes place every two years and teams from all over the world compete with solar cars they built themselves. The Top Dutch team consists of 26 students from the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, the University of Groningen, Noorderpoort and Friesland colleges. This is also what makes the team unique; it’s not a university team, but a collaboration between governments, companies and academic and educational institutions in the Northern Netherlands. The race will start on October 15 and lasts until October 20th.


Data communication

One of those companies involved, is Startup in Residence alumnus Greatwaves. “It’s a really cool project for us and a great way to test the limits of our hardware and expertise”, founder Wouter Zijlstra explains. “And I also think it’s important to support cool ideas and initiatives in the Northern Netherlands as well as learning new things. This is something you’ll never do again and it’s awesome to help out the team with the skills that we have.”

Greatwaves was responsible for setting up real time data communication between the race car and support vehicle. “You want to maintain the highest possible average speed, so things like weather data and battery life are crucial information for a solar powered car”, Wouter explains. “If the weather suddenly changes for example, that’s going to affect speed and battery life, because you need the sun. There’s little to no 3G or 4G coverage, so sharing important data like that used to be done by exchanging USB sticks.”


Mount Everest

“The big challenge in building a real time communication system, is that it has to be very reliable”, Wouter continues. “It needs to work perfectly at distances ranging from 10 meters to 500 meters between both cars. The connection needs to be constant and if it does fail, it needs to instantly and automatically be reset and repaired. We used the same antenna they have on Mount Everest for that.”

The first real test on the race track a few months back, didn’t go as well as expected. “It actually failed miserably”, Wouter laughs. “We couldn’t figure out what went wrong, but it turned out they modified the antenna and got rid of the shielding for extra speed. But once we changed it back, the connection worked up to 800 meters with 3 buildings between the two cars. The team has been testing the car in Australia for about a month now and are making the final preparations for the race.”


Startup in Residence

For last year’s Startup in Residence program, Greatwaves joined the challenge to make the Campus buildings more sustainable. The equipped their WiFi routers with extra sensors and essentially use the WiFi to create smart buildings. “Basically, it’s a very simple way to monitor things like light, sound, temperature, movement and air quality”, Wouter says.

“We’re currently still testing on the Campus and I can definitely recommend the Startup in Residence program. It got us a lot exposure as a startup as well as making new connections and learning how to work with big companies and institutions.”

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