Honors College students lead Team Sunergy to first place in 2021 American Solar Challenge

Honors seniors Stephany Garcia Henao and Jessica Navarro-Luviano drove Team Sunergy to finish first place for multiple-occupant vehicles (MOV) in the 2021 American Solar Challenge (ASC), which took place this August. Honors College juniors Griffin Honea and Nicole Sommerdorf were also part of the winning team effort. Team Sunergy won all three stages of the race from Missouri to New Mexico clocking a total of 964.8 miles, and received top awards for teamwork and electrical design 

Summing up the teamwork involved, Navarro-Luviano stated,

“Once we started ASC it felt like every hour of the day we were competing. Everyone was always doing something and our task always seemed to overlap, shedding light into how this team works overall. The perspective that our interdisciplinary team provides is what sets us apart from the engineering focused universities we compete against.”

Team Sunergy’s wins required each participant to work outside their disciplinary area and training. Cross-disciplinary and collaborative learning are at the heart of Honors education so Honors students like Henao, Honea, Navarro-Luviano, and Sommerdorf exemplified the Honors spirit with their flexibility and teamwork. As Honea explained, “like everyone else at the race I ended up picking up additional responsibilities as well like tracking the car's lap times for eight hours a day during the Formula Sun Grand Prix (qualifying event for the ASC).”

Henao has been working with the AppState Solar Vehicle Team since 2018 when she came to Appalachian. With a major in industrial design and minor in sustainable technology, Henao is focused on “creating products that work for the customer as well as the environment.” With Team Sunergy, Henao has worked on the mechanical team as a designer contributing to multiple parts of the car including the Ackerman arm (suspension design), windshield installation, hinge design, and body parts. She shared,

“Aside from the professional experience, I have had in this team, I met my best friend and people that I know I can reach out to in the future. Everyone in this team has put in hours in different ways to accomplish our goals for this summer. I will no longer be part of the team as I am heading out for studying abroad, but I am glad to have been present and hope that incoming members take their involvement seriously and get the most out of it. “

Navarro-Luviano has also been working with the AppState Social Vehicle Team since beginning at Appalachian in 2018. As a sustainable technology major with minors in philosophy and building science, she plans to pursue her master’s degree in architecture to focus on green building designs. With Team Sunergy, Navarro-Luviano is a co-mechanical Director primarily working on the body of the car. During the ASC race, she was one of the four drivers alongside Reid Kerr, Matthew Allen and Patrick Laney. Navarro-Luviano explained,

“The best thing about our team is that we’re all learning and growing together. None of us have ever built a solar car but all of us have a passion for sustainability. This is where the magic happens. Young minds driven towards a more sustainable future.”

Sommerdorf is a sustainable tech and environmental science double major, who has worked with Team Sunergy since coming to Appalachian in 2019. As a part of the electrical team, she  specifically works with the battery. She plans to continue working with the team attending upcoming races in her remaining two years at Appalachian and as long as she can. She added,

“Sunergy is looking for new people and it’s a great opportunity to learn and find the most wonderful people.“

Honea is a history major with a minor in English whose official team responsibilities were social media outreach and coordinating the team's use of radios (walkie-talkies, HAM, CB, etc.).  He first joined Team Sunergy in April 2021, only a few months ago, and shared,

“Going on the ASC 2021 was an adventure I'm going to remember for the rest of my life. It was a really amazing trip and I got to meet so many cool people and visit places totally unlike anywhere I'd ever been before… To go from joining the club to racing across the country with them in about three months was pretty wild. I'm really glad I got involved though and I'm looking forward to continuing to work with the rest of the team this year and beyond as we get ready for our next race!”

For more on Team Sunergy, click here to read the full story in AppalachianToday August 12, 2021 by Elisabeth Wall.


In photo above team Sunergy members hold sunflowers at a stop in La Junta, Colorado. Pictured kneeling, from left to right, are Stephany Garcia Henao, Jessica Navarro-Luviano, App State Sustainability Data and Assessment Specialist Jim Dees and Jason Harrington. Standing, from left to right, are Danna Latiolais ’21, Nathaniel McDonald, Austin Liebgott, Jameson Mathews, Griffin Honea, Nicole Sommerdorf, Patrick Laney, Sean Riordan, Sam Cheatham, Reid Kerr, Hunter Bristow ’20, Matthew Allen ’21, App State Chief Sustainability Officer Lee Ball, Sam Prewitt, Logistics and Strategy Adviser Ray Sinclair and Lead Team Adviser Chris Tolbert. Photo by Kyla Willoughby


Published: Aug 18, 2021 8:47am