Northland grads part of team that brought home 2nd place in Bridgestone World Solar Challenge

A look at how scholarships supported students who worked on the U of MN Solar Vehicle Project

Students share their success on the U of Mn Solar Vehicle Project, and credit scholarships for helping along the way.

The University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project team is very proud to bring home the hardware from the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.

Their car, named Gaia, earned 2nd place, after competing down under in Australia in October.

“We’ve never gotten on the podium before,” Shane Spengler told us. “So that was a really big goal for us.”

He’s an Ely graduate, who worked on the chassis of the vehicle. He made it out of carbon fiber, so it was lighter.

Amber Zierden, who graduated from Hermantown, said it was a challenge just getting the car down there. “We had to ship the car in July, putting it on a boat and sending it away,” she said.

It’s a race across the entire country. They faced some challenges, like serious headwinds. But they are proud of their successes.

They also came home with another award, The inaugural Eberle-Selwood Championship Arrow Cup, a new award that acts as a kind of overall world cup between many different solar racing competitions around the world.

Scholarships helped Amber and Shane with their schooling costs, so they can focus on projects like Gaia.

Shane’s came from the Marshall H. and Nellie Alworth Memorial Fund. “I was able to focus on the solar vehicle, without worrying about money. And I was able to graduate debt free, partially because of the scholarships. So I’ve been extremely lucky because of that,” he told us.

Amber added, “I wouldn’t be able to work and do the solar car and take 15-18 credits each semester. I’m really grateful my Gilmore scholarship allowed me to pursue something like this.”

The folks at the Alworth program hope this inspires other young people to apply.

“We’re over the moon. Just thrilled. The students who receive the Alworth always get to do amazing things. Whether it’s research or building a solar car or studying abroad,” Patty Salo Downs said. She’s the Executive Director of the fund.

To apply now for the Alworth scholarship:

The deadline is January 15th.