Solar Car Raycing Saves The World

Today I have a little more confidence that we actually will survive this mess.  Why you ask?

I was reading a brief WSJ biography of Neel Kashkari, the 35 year old former Goldman Sachs banker who is now in charge of implementing the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street.  Apparently he was trained as an electrical engineer at the University of Illinois, worked on a space telescope, among other things, and then went to Wharton for b-school before joining Goldman.

But what really jumped out at me was that he was on the solar car team at Illinois.  The WSJ explains:

Goldman’s investment bankers were most impressed by Kashkari’s science
background. His experience working on the James Webb Space Telescope
for NASA contractor TRW gave him a comfort with technological jargon
that would help Kashkari communicate with technology-company
executives. Kashkari also spoke passionately of his entry in a car
competition, the 1997 Sunrayce event in which Kashkari’s team built and
raced a solar-powered car. His team didn’t win, but it did earn kudos.
While other bankers at Goldman would often discuss their project du
jour or details of a presentation even in their off-time, Kashkari
often discussed cars and the Sunrayce experience.

As a fellow raycer (University of Michigan solar car team), I totally get how a project like this can stay with you for a lifetime.  I would say most of my entrepreneurial skills came from my work on the Michigan solar car team (you can read more about the project on this Wikipedia page on my team).

Solar car racing has been around since 1987 with the first race in Australia and the sport came to North America in 1990.  There have been 9 races here since then (and I’m compelled to mention that Michigan has won 5).  Each race is typically held in stages over the course of a week; typically 1,000 to 2,000 miles in total.  To give a little context, the 1993 Michigan team consisted of more than 350 students who volunteered over 100,000 man hours and raised $2.5 million over 3 years to design, build and race the car.  It was basically a startup business.

I remember saying on a television interview during one of the 1993 races that the “real product of the solar car team wasn’t the car or the race, but it was the legion of students that get valuable experience that will serve them for a lifetime.”  I said that 15 years ago…who knew that a fellow solar car raycer would have a chance to actually save the world?

PS, One other nifty little tidbit from my solar car days is that Larry Page was on my solar car team.  So you could say that I’m one of like 3 people that Larry has ever worked for….nice!