Accelerating the Future

Solar Car Darwin

On a sunny humid Tuesday in mid-October 100 guests attended the Accelerating the Future Symposium at the Hidden Valley motorsport facility.

Featuring 5 key speakers and 15 rapid presenters, with generous sponsorship from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), the Symposium brought together the Scientific Faculty and Alumni of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge together with Territory industry, government and academic representatives to support the Territory’s economic development.

The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge (BWSC) is a solar car challenge from Darwin to Adelaide and attracts around 1000 - 1500 participants in addition to supporters, industry and media, with a global audience of over 25 million, generating 400 plus industry partnerships across energy, automotive, engineering, financial, material sciences and ICT sectors.

The Symposium brought together experts from BWSC Scientific Faculty industry, government and, academia to discuss key areas of economic development in the Territory such as transport, the circular economy and renewable energy.

Cameron Tuesley is the Founder-CEO of a Queensland-based digital and software company, Integral, and a co-founder and director of another called Prohelion, and provided the keynote speech during which he made a statement that astonished the attendees:

“The market capitalisation of companies started by participants in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge is US$2.5 trillion.”

Cameron went on to list Tesla, Google, Tritium, Metamako (acquired by Arista), and of course his own companies among many examples.

We can add the Territory's own SPEE3D, co-founded by Bridgestone World Solar Challenge alumni and Territory Export Award winner, Steven Camilleri, to this incredible list.

Steven developed the revolutionary electric motor for the Desert Rose, which was also commercialised, and now in a huge range of electric motor driven technologies around the world (e.g. you probably have one of these motors in your washing machine at home right now), prior to co-founding SPEE3D to solve a challenge in producing the motor!

While 100 Symposium participants listened to Cameron’s astonishing address, around 200 teenage school students from across the top end and remote communicates STEM engagement day, delivered in partnership with Inspired NT.

The engagement day featured model solar car racing, drone competition, VR, viewing of solar cars and discussion with race teams, and a challenge session, and Minister Kirby MLA presented the first, second, and third place winners with their awards, and expressed his support for the event and gave encouragement to the students at the Engagement Day to become presenters at the next Symposium in two years’ time.

Elena Tsangari, Senior Advisor, Government and Industry on the world’s largest renewable energy project, SunCable, gave the audience an update following recent developments in the direction of the project and what we can expect next.

CEO of Australian Association of Uncrewed Systems, Greg Tyrell, gave an update on advanced air mobility (think drone taxis like in the Jetsons).

Jo Hayes, Bridgestone Australia’s Head of Sustainability and Communications delivered an engaging account of her company’s circular economy  strategy and some of the incredible ways they are working to reduce impact of tyres on our environment.

At this event, we also put the spotlight on the future of innovation and highlighting the critical role of young women driving progress in STEM field and we were honoured to feature Coco Wong as the Keynote Speaker for the Women’s Innovation Network NT (WIN NT) networking session.

Coco’s exciting career began as a founder of the Adelaide University Solar Racing Team before she became the Lead Developer Energy Products at Tesla, helped establish the Big Battery in South Australia, and she is now the Head of Ground Systems at Zipline USA.

Unfortunately at around lunch time, we learned that Coco’s flight was cancelled and she was unable to make it Darwin in time to deliver her keynote. Normally this would have been an impossible role to fill in time.

But with such an incredible line up of talent in Darwin participating in the BWSC, it didn’t take the BWSC team long to convince another stellar BWSC alumni Yante Van Ham to step up with just a few hours’ notice and deliver the session keynote address.

Yante shared her inspirational journey of being a young female in the tech industry and the challenges of being on a challenge team dominated by males. Yante was on the Innoptus Solar Team that won the challenge in 2019, in 2023 Yante is providing mentor support to the team.

The Women’s Innovation Network NT (WIN NT) were very grateful to have for BWSC support and hear Yante’s journey to success and opportunities presented to her from participating the challenge.

WIN NT chair Dr Ulrike Kachel and wished Yante’s team, Innoptus, the best of luck in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge until we have a Territory team!

With Yante as a mentor, no one who heard her speak was surprised when Innoptus won the challenge again this year!

Perhaps the highlight of the day, at each session teams of students from Dripstone Middle School, Casuarina Secondary College, and Henbury School addressed the Symposium about their projects on renewable energy, transport, and circular economy and their aspirations about these sectors in their own futures.

Keynote speakers included: Quotes from NTMEC Media release:

Bridgestone World Solar Challenge Event Director Chris Selwood AM:

'The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge is the world’s greatest innovation and engineering challenge. Not only is it an incredible story of human endeavour and scientific innovation; this workshop on wheels is the proving ground for a more sustainable driving future of electric and solar vehicles.

'Crossing a continent by the power of the sun really is the ultimate adventure. It provides an invaluable opportunity for students to passionately compete against teams from around the world, and it is an experience that stays with them for a lifetime.'

Article last updated on 21 November 2023