Skip to main content
Badger Solar Racing
February 7, 2024

Q&A with Badger Solar Racing student leaders

Written By: Caitlin Scott



Badger Solar Racing is a registered student organization at UW-Madison that competes in the American Solar Challenge. Its members are made up of undergraduate and graduate students of various disciplines across campus. President Ben Colby and Mechanical Director Brooke Ehle, both seniors in Mechanical Engineering, shared their thoughts on how their student org experience has benefitted their engineering education and personal development.

What opportunities do students on teams like Badger Solar Racing get to take advantage of?

Ben Colby Solar Racing
President Ben Colby

Ben & Brooke: Badger Solar Racing members get the opportunity to apply engineering principles learned in classes to their designs, while also learning how to approach design problems, bring their designs to life with manufacturing, and prove those parts’ reliability with testing. Whether you want to learn practical design and hands-on skills that you don’t get from classes, be a part of a great team atmosphere, or you have an interest in electric vehicles, solar technology, or solving fun and challenging problems, Badger Solar Racing is a one-of-a-kind opportunity! Being a part of our team also builds a community of smart, innovative engineering students that not only build a car, but become friends and do things outside of engineering.

How has your time with Badger Solar Racing benefitted your Wisconsin experience?

Ben: As an engineer and a leader, I have failed time and again – constraining designs with requirements that shouldn’t exist, being 100% confident on problems that I later find to be wrong, blindness of the bigger picture, acting with indecisiveness, failing to understand and appreciate others’ perspectives, and many more. It is precisely these failures that have propelled my growth as an engineer, a leader, and a person.

Brooke: The experience I have had with Badger Solar Racing has greatly benefited my engineering education and personal development. I have learned how to apply some of the best principles when it comes to creating initial designs, analyzing these designs, optimizing our work, and manufacturing these designs to bring them to life. My experience with the team has also taught me how to work with others, communicate my work, and develop other solutions when our initial ideas fail.

What has your engineering journey been like? Did you ‘always’ want to be an engineer?

Brooke Ehle Solar Racing
Mechanical Director Brooke Ehle

Brooke: I ‘always’ knew I wanted to be an engineer, but I didn’t know exactly what type of engineer I wanted to be. Throughout my experience as an undergraduate student on Badger Solar Racing, I have been able to find that mechanical engineering was the best choice for me since I like to learn how things work, how systems work together, and how there are so many different options/topics mechanical engineers can develop an expertise in.

What have your roles been with Solar Racing and why is it worthwhile?

Brooke: Over my four years on the Badger Solar Racing team, I was the chassis team lead for two years and then shifted this year into the role of mechanical director. From not knowing much about how to build a solar car to leading our mechanical team, this experience has taught me how to approach a problem when you don’t know the answer and how to lead others through this process as well.

Ben: I was suspension team lead, then mechanical director, and am now president. The experience has been formative due to the degree of responsibility and ownership I have taken on. I didn’t expect to take on the level of responsibility that I have, but rather as I learned and grew, I incrementally realized I could take on more responsibility.

What might you share with other UW/Engineering students coming up behind you?

Ben: My first piece of advice for anyone starting out on a design team is to stick with it – it can be discouraging if you don’t know what you’re doing, but you never will know what you’re doing if you give up. Next, I’d recommend finding a balance of learning from others verse independently – if you don’t ask many questions from more experienced people, you will learn slowly, and if you don’t learn to think independently, you will always be reliant on others. Lastly, particularly for those that step into a leadership position, our team has a mantra of extreme ownership, where you take 100% responsibility and accountability for whatever it is you are leading, without exception.

Brooke: As an engineering student, the College of Engineering has so many opportunities for you to connect with other students, apply what you’ve learned in classes, and learn so much more. Find something that interests you whether it be a competition team, service organization, or research opportunity and stick with it. Sometimes at the beginning it can be hard to get started if you don’t know what to do, but these experiences will give you the skills to be a successful engineer in the future and you will look back and be shocked at how much you were able to learn from taking on more responsibility.

Badger Solar Racing
Formula Sun Grand Prix (FSGP) 2023

Featured image: The team in the pit with their car at the Formula Sun Grand Prix (FSGP) 2023. Photo provided by Brooke Ehle.

Read more about the Solar Racing team’s success >>

Badgerloop team at ASC/FSGP 2023

Badgerloop team wins American Solar Challenge Rookie of the Year

The Badgerloop Team had an impressive showing at the Electrek Formula Sun Grand Prix 2023 competition earlier this month. The Electrek FSGP is 3 days of racing on the 2.5…

Read the article