Running on sunshine – Appalachian State organization brings sustainability awareness to Boone


Team Sunergy’s new vehicle ROSE, meaning “Racing on Solar Energy.” The solar vehicle was designed and built soley by App State students.

Christina Beals, Reporter

Appalachian State conveys its sustainability mission through wind turbines and solar panels, but in 2013, a new effort in local sustainable technology was introduced.

Team Sunergy, a student-run and led campus organization, works to represent and uphold App State’s sustainability efforts through building solar vehicles and stimulating the Boone community to think globally, according to Team Sunergy.

Senior environmental physics and policy major Kali Smith is the organization’s business director and focuses on fundraising, outreach, press coverage and social media.

Smith accidentally joined Team Sunergy as a sophomore economics major when she was walking through App State’s Club Expo and was stopped by a member of the team.

“I said to myself, ‘you know what? You have to find a club that you can relate back to your major in some way,’” Smith said. “Team Sunergy is a club where I have free reign with interacting with businesses and talking to them about how sustainability works and why it matters.”

Sustainability is a talking point for businesses to support Team Sunergy and is also represented through the team’s car designs.

“We’re trying to make people rethink the way they see transportation,” Smith said. “That’s one of the biggest reasons we’ve made our newest car, R.O.S.E., look the way the she does. She looks like a car that everybody wants to drive.”

Racing on Solar Energy (R.O.S.E.), Team Sunergy’s second -generation solar vehicle built from scratch, is their first two-passenger car.

The exterior design is sleek yet spacious, with its wheels peeking out from under the light gray shell of the car and sporting the western North Carolina ‘828’ area code and team sponsors on the side.

It also has rechargeable batteries and wall-charging ports, while also satisfying safety, accessibility and utility requirements, according to Team Sunergy.

Chris Tolbert, founder and longtime mentor to Team Sunergy, has been alongside the team during their car competitions, including the 2018 American Solar Challenge last summer.

“App State being represented at the American Solar Challenge is just another opportunity to show the ability that it is possible to travel across the U.S. on this type of technology,” Tolbert said.

Team Sunergy also promotes their sustainability efforts locally by attending campus events with their solar vehicle.

Lucas Tax, senior physics major, is Team Sunergy’s lead electrical engineer and focuses on electrical systems used by the team such as motors, battery protection and embedded systems.

During outreach events such as football tailgates and campus summits, Tax aids in telling students about the team’s evolution from Apperion, the team’s spring 2015 car, to R.O.S.E.

“Apperion is a single-seat, efficient car, but kind of looks like a lunch tray on wheels with a cockpit in the center,” Tax said. “It’s cool, but it’s not super practical. What we did with R.O.S.E. was make a coup-type design with plenty of room, more like an actual car.”

Apperion is featured in a Team Sunergy promotion video created by App State and uploaded to their YouTube channel titled “Runnin’ on Shine,” narrated by Dave Blanks, App State production assistant and audio engineer.

During the 2016 Formula Sun Grande Prix in Wampum, PA, Apperion and Team Sunergy made their debut by placing 3rd place overall, according to the video.

“A podium finish for this young team not only marked their place on the map for collegiate solar sports, but also marked the beginning of what was yet to come,” Blanks said in the video.

Team Sunergy will be presenting R.O.S.E. at the Homecoming Parade on Saturday and the App State Fall Open House on Oct. 6.

Story by: Christina Beals, News Reporter

Photos courtesy of Chase Reynolds, Appalachian State University Communications

Feature Photo Caption: Team Sunergy’s new vehicle ROSE, meaning “Racing on Solar Energy.” The solar vehicle was designed and built solely by App State students.