UFS debuts solar challenge with female driver

Monica van der Walt, one of the drivers for the UFS Solar Team. PHOTO: Francois van Vuuren, iFlair Photography

The University of the Free State (UFS) made its first appearance in a solar-powered vehicle at this year’s Sasol Solar Challenge with one of its three drivers, Monica van der Walt, being female.

Speaking in a video shared by the Sasol Solar Challenge, Van der Walt says: “It is a huge honour to be one of the drivers, especially as a young woman. I am representing young women in STEM – or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – and I think other universities should definitely enter and start building a solar-powered vehicle because it is such a great adventure.

“This is an incredible event as it draws people from overseas and it also brings all of our South African universities together to compete. We also get to travel our beautiful country – all thanks to Sasol.”

Dr Hendrik van Heerden, from the UFS Department of Physics, says that having a diverse team means that each team member has an equal chance to participate, especially since this is their debut.

He also adds that the team’s performance thus far has been great and that they are learning a lot on this journey. The biggest challenge they have had to face so far is learning to manage the energy they have available and not to waste it, but to use it effectively so that they’re able to travel longer.

At the time of publication, the UFS Solar Team went into the final day in the seventh position on the overall leader board. The team departed from Carnival City in Johannesburg on 9 September and will arrive at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town today (16/09).

Justine Fortuin