Solar Challenge Team

Solar Challenge Team Profiles

Ross Clements

Year, Degree & Department:

4th Year, M.Phys, Physics Department


Current Role/Title:

Project Manager


What do you do?

I ensure the team runs (relatively) smoothly, help the team raise funds and work with the lead engineers to determine the general and technical direction of the project.


How long have you been on the Team?

I joined in March 2016 in the teams inception, originally working on solar cell configuration, sponsorship and general design. In 2017 I became Project Manager whilst also helping the R&D manufacturing group, moving away from the design side of the team.


What do you enjoy most about the project?

I mostly enjoy getting to work with the Carbon Fibre. Its sheer strength and lack of weight always surprise me. Learning everything from the manufacturing of the Carbon Fibre fabric right the way through to the variety of layups and epoxy combinations, its been a steep learning curve but the materials potential, especially for the team,  is massive.

Theres always something interesting going on in the team, either in design or construction, or particularly interesting for myself, in the electronics side of the project. Recently we took a step towards automated piloting, investing in the necessary flight controllers and associated sensors.


Why did you join?

Partly out of interest, but mostly because I knew it’d be something to add to the CV. Pretty soon after joinging though, I soon realised the projects potential- British Records in solar powered flight, commercial applications and research projects.


Plans for post-university?

The project has definetly led me towards a more applied physics route, so I’ll likely end up (hopefully) in either R&D, or, with my management experience of the team, in a project lead role at an engineering firm.


How has this project helped your CV or Career etc?

At recent interviews for Summer Internships, I noticed how firms would always take interest in the solar project, often becoming the focal point of our conversation. In fact, I put my time on the solar challenge team as one of the main reasons behind acceptance onto my current Internship!


Favourite/best experience?

My personal favourite experience was the trip to Sigmatex Composites, the Teams Carbon Fibre Sponsor & Supplier. We were shown around the factory, getting to look at how each type of fibre is made, from basic 2D flat weaves, right the way through to custom 3D near-net shapes.


Plans for future involvement with the project?

I hope to continue leading the team, potentially taking a more hands on role in the design and construction of our aircraft, likely focusing on the automated flight side of the project. 

Richard Hughes

Year, Degree & Department:

4th Year, M.Phys, Physics Department


Current Role/Title:

Manufacturing Sub-Team


What do you do?

Make carbon fibre structures and test them for suitability. The most recent components include carbon fibre sheets that will be cut using the University’s precision waterjet cutter, creating the wing ribs that can be bonded with our carbon 3D core.


How long have you been on the Team?

Since the September 2017


What do you enjoy most about the project?

The chance to work and make an impact in a new/premature field of engineering/research.


Why did you join?

I thought it’d be an interesting & enjoyable project, applying my degree in a large cross-departmental project.


How has this project helped your CV or Career etc?

It has provided the opportunity to showcase my skills and traits, complimenting and utilising different aspects of my degree.


Plans for future involvement with the project?

I hope to soon make the jump from producing samples, to producing competition version aircraft components and seeing them fly!

Oliver Holden

Oliver Holden

Year, Degree & Department:

Avionic Systems and Pilot Studies – Electrical and Electronic Engineering.


Current Role/Title:

Lead Electronic Engineer.


What do you do?

My main role has been to organise and delegate tasks to the electronics team, as well as coordinate with design and finance teams to make sure components will fit in the fuselage and orders for parts the electronics team needs go through on time.


How long have you been on the Team?

Since October 2016.


What do you enjoy most about the project?

I most enjoy the freedom that the project had to design and come together with our own ideas for a solar aircraft.


Why did you join?

I joined due to the lack of project work that my course provided, as well as to boost my CV and develop team working and leadership skills.


Plans for post-university?

I hope to join the RAF as an Engineer.


How has this project helped your CV or Career etc?

I think this project will play a massive part in helping me secure interviews and other preliminary stages of job applications. It makes me stand out from the crowd, developing my team working, organisational and leadership skills whilst also providing me a chance to see where else I can improve.


Plans for future involvement with the project?

I hope to continue to be part of the team possibly working more on the automation side of things such as the auto pilot and imaging systems. 

Nikhil Reji

Year, degree & department:

3rd year, Aerospace Engineering, School of Engineering.


Current role/title:

Lead design engineer.


What do you do?

My role as one of the lead design engineers is developing the aircraft’s fuselage and tail bodies to the needed requirements of the full design, involving creating many different components assembled together for the wing module to attach to.


How long have you been on the team?

I have been with the solar challenge team since it was first introduced in 2016 when i was in my first year of my degree. During the first year I was part of the design team but took on the lead design role in September 2016.


What do you enjoy most about the project?

The most enjoyable part of the project is sharing designs and learning off each other within the team; increasing our knowledge on the subject while we apply it in real life. This project is new to all of us as none of us have any experience building solar powered aircraft. It is quite exciting discovering the method behind managing a team to create such a design.


Why did you join?

The main reason I joined the team was because due to my degree subject and interest in the aerospace industry, wanting to place myself in a challenging situation so that I could apply my knowledge and creativity to solve real problems. From the first meeting, the project had my full interest and still does.


Plans for post-university?

My post university plans are still in the making but i’m leaning towards the space industry. The massive challenge that have to be overcome attracts me the most and I’m always intrigued by how the industry will advance in the future.


How has this project helped your cv or career etc?

This project has given me a lot of experience and skills in the areas of teamwork, leadership, design processes, manufacturing and most importantly communication. Teamwork and communication are at the centre of any project, without it no project could take off and succeed.


Plans for future involvement with the project?

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to continue my involvement with the project in its third year as I will be spending a year in China with the university as part of my degree. Upon returning to continue in Liverpool I will definitely be getting back involved with the project.

Teja Ala

Year, degree & department:

3rd Mechanical Engineering, School of Engineering.


Current role:

Deputy Team Leader and Design Team Lead.


What do you do?

Lead of a team of students working on design and construction of wing and solar panel integration.


How long have you been on the team?

2 years, joining mid-way through Solar Project 1.


What do you enjoy most about the project?

The challenge of the project and the drive of the team to work hard and collaborate with each other. The project also provides a platform to improve our knowledge on aircraft design. The whole design process involves a lot of trial and error with a lot of CFD simulations and FEA modelling. It’s an incredible process that makes you appreciate the level of engineering that goes into product development (and the end results are cool if they work).


Plans for post-university?

I plan to hopefully work in the aircraft industry.


How has the project helped your cv, career and academic etc?

The project improved my ability to work and communicate in a team efficiently, one of the core qualities desired by the aviation industry. It also provides a chance to communicate with people from various departments and helped me understand how different disciplines approach a given problem. The procedures of the project we’re involved in, design and construction, of the solar UAV is an experience that is not available in our courses until a higher level, this project helped me to improve my ingenuity and set me in a path to develop efficient and organised design projects in the future. 

Josh Louch

Year, degree & department:

4th year, M.Phys, Physics.


Current role/title:

Manufacturing team.


What do you do?

Design structures of components and think up and carry out innovative manufacturing techniques of components, primarily with carbon fibre.


How long have you been on the team?

2016/17 was my first year on the team.


 What do you enjoy most about the project?

The project is a fun and interesting way to apply knowledge gained from my degree and to take part in something that i wouldn't otherwise experience.


Plans for post-university?

PhD in Nuclear Physics.


How has this project helped your cv or career etc?

Greatly helped with my summer placement at DSTL as my newly attained knowledge and experience both impressed the interviewers and is relevant to the work i undertook whilst there.


Plans for future involvement with the project?

Build different aircraft for different purposes and teach newly learned techniques to next year’s new team. This will be especially important so the team can continue after many of the current team graduate from university next year.