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From left: Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt, CECS Dean Elanor Huntington, Sol Invictus Team Leader Alan Babaei, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr, and Nova Systems Innovation Manager Jonathan Couldrick

Sol Invictus, a student-lead flagship program, is scheduled to compete in the World Solar Challenge in October 2017 after drawing the efforts of students from throughout the ANU. The team is supported by CBE and CECS, and aims to receive a total of $350,000 in funding: $150,000 confirmed from the ANU and a prospective $200,000 from external sponsors.

The World Solar Challenge draws competitors from across the world and from other Australian universities – UNSW currently holds the land-speed record. It is sponsored by Bridgestone and puts innovative technology in energy efficiency to the test.

This will be the first time ANU will be competing in the challenge, which entails a 3000km timed race from Darwin to Adelaide where only 50% of competitors ever finish. The goal for Sol Invictus is for its specially-designed solar vehicle to finish the race.

The team is divided into four sections: administration, business, technical, and operations. Students from different colleges, including CBE, CECS, and Law, are involved in the program, which ANU perceived as a means for integrating courses across the campus and developing business relationships with external parties.

Concurrently, the business team is shifting its focus on securing funding from external sponsors. Using sponsorship events, the team hopes to gain the sponsorship of companies in management, systems engineering, and renewable energy fields. In addition, ANU administration has begun offering substantial support, not only in funding, but in marketing.

In fact, when Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt personally expressed interest in Sol Invictus, their initial marketing strategy suddenly intensified.

A networking night hosted on the 27th of May featured Vice Chancellor Schmidt as the keynote speaker, supported by ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr, College of Engineering and Computer Science Dean Elanor Huntington, and Dr Jonathan Couldrich from Nova Systems.

The event was attended by around 140 individuals, including ANU managerial staff and executives from Canberran engineering, consulting, and renewable energy firms, as well as experts from government organisations.

“A university is ultimately made up of people, and the people that ultimately drive change are students… they do not know the limits of what is possible and that’s why they end up changing the world,” Schmidt said.

Professor Huntington praised the team’s efforts in renewable energy innovation as “the very best of ANU”, and Barr stated that there was “every chance that the World Solar Challenge will be won by the ANU.”

Sol Invictus stated that they were “born from a bold vision to take Canberra’s strong commitment to sustainability and combine it with the world-class innovation at Australia’s leading university.”

They hoped to increase Australia’s profile as a leader, rather than a follower, in sustainability innovation, and aspired for their program to be “Something that would challenge the students of today and tomorrow to collaboratively push the boundaries of possibility in the pursuit of a sustainable future.”