Joining in the fall of his freshman year in 2006, Alex Dowling was a part of the strategy division from the very beginning. Throughout his time on the team, Dowling worked his way up in the strategy division, starting as Interim Strategy Director in 2007, Head Strategist for NASC 2008, and later Strategy Director in 2009. Even after his time at the University, Dowling was able to be in an alumni media vehicle for the recent 2010 American Solar Challenge.
Currently, Dowling is attending graduate school at Carnegie Melon University to receive a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering. The exposure from solar car to computer science, applied mathematics, engineering, and physics prepped him for studying at graduate school where he does research on process optimization. Using similar math and methods of how to drive the car, he can apply that knowledge to how to operate chemical plants (specifically on how to optimize the design separation processes for carbon capture and sequestration for next generation coal power plants).
“I’m in this cool position where I am able to help the current strategists with what they’re doing and also help myself study for school. I like how I’m able to use a concept I learned in grad school and apply it to solar car to show them better ways to analyze vehicle data.”
A favorite memory from his time on the team would be when he was preparing for NASC in 2008. He was running the strategy division, modeling practice runs and driving a couple hours to validate the simulation model.
“It finally started working and it was crazy to believe. It’s really cool to see something you’ve worked on for a long time get to the real world and actually work.”
A more nerve-wracking experience for Dowling was at the start of NASC ’08. The first day was very cloudy and from a strategy standpoint, it makes racing more challenging. It was difficult to get the battery charged and added more stress to the situation. Trying to get to the first stage stop was increasingly stressful for Dowling as Head Strategist, where he made all the calls for how fast the car should be going. In addition, the treaded tires left on from their unfortunate crash a few weeks before the race consumed more energy than if they used the un-treaded tires. At the control stop, the team was able to perform a tire change in under than 30 minutes, giving the car a little bit more time on the battery’s power. Luckily, the car was able to pull into the first stage stop with just 3% of battery power left and the rest of the race ran smoothly.
As far as Dowling’s thoughts on the current team goes, he believes it is the team’s best shot in the race.
“It’s a phenomenal car and being able to participate in the design review documentation and see simulation estimates of Quantum, I’m excited to see it run. With the awesome strategists right now, combined with the new math that I’m acquainting them with, they’re doing things that I never would have thought of doing two years ago.”
But as a whole, Dowling hasn’t decided to give solar car up just yet.
“I like the fact that I can be an alumni and be involved with helping strategist but also apply it to work and school work. Even though the others say I need to let go, I’m able to justify still being involved. But, I miss working on something that I’m really passionate about. Although I enjoy what I do in grad school, it’s not enough to spend 80 hours a week just thinking about it.”