Over 200 fifth through eighth grade students raced their solar-powered model cars in the Southern California Junior Solar Sprint in Carlsbad. The winning team is from Joan MacQueen Middle School in Alpine and will be sponsored by event coordinator Sullivan Solar Power to compete in the national competition next month in Atlanta, Georgia.
The Junior Solar Sprint helps kids develop technical expertise while complementing the science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) skills learned in school to design the model cars. The competition aims to help students advance teamwork and problem-solving abilities while investigating environmental and social issues impacted by fossil fuels.
“It’s inspiring to see our future leaders excited about running a model car off the power of the sun and setting the standards for future Junior Solar Sprint events across the country,” said Daniel Sullivan, founder and president of Sullivan Solar Power, “These solar cars are just a microcosm of how we can use renewables to power our needs, negating consequences fossil fuel has on our society.”
The May 19 event at Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary School was the largest Junior Solar Sprint in the state, surpassing last year’s regional event participation, which had doubled in size compared to the previous year’s event. Fifteen schools in Orange County and San Diego County were represented across 68 teams and 201 participants. Sullivan Solar Power has been putting on this local event since 2009 with support from IBEW Local 569 and NECA San Diego.
The winning team was “Chicken Potpie Rats,” a car made by eighth grade students Ronan Eddy, Chase Kingston and Josh Handley. These students, and their fellow Joan MacQueen Middle School classmates, learned to generate digital drawings in engineering software for their car in their advanced engineering design class at school. The digital files were used to machine cut the balsa wood components for their car.
Medals were given to the fastest three teams, as well as to the top three overall winners. The overall winners were determined on a point system based on design, originality, construction and fastest time. Defending school champion Joan MacQueen Middle School stole the thunder, ranking first, second and third overall, and first and third in the final heat based on speed. Quantum Academy in Escondido had a team with the second-fastest car in the final heat.
“I am so proud of all Joan MacQueen Middle participants for not only designing and building competitive solar cars, but also for the time they took to add details into their notebooks and display boxes,” said Diana Tompkins, a teacher at Joan MacQueen Middle School.
San Diego surf guru, Scott Bass, was the emcee of the event. Attendees also heard short speeches from Encinitas Union School District’s Superintendent Dr. Timothy Baird and Encinitas Deputy Mayor Joe Mosca.
Last year’s regional winners and fellow Joan MacQueen Middle School alumni, Ramses Lara and Hayden Laurie, competed in the national competition in Orlando, Florida in June 2017 where they went undefeated. They were the first students in the country to use a 3D printer to build their car for this competition. The reigning champions are in high school now so were not able to compete but said a few remarks to inspire participants and brought their winning car to show attendees.
The national Junior Solar Sprint is coordinated by the Technology Student Association and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. It will take place June 22 through June 25, 2018. Sullivan Solar Power will post updates on how the winning team, Chicken Potpie Rats, does in Atlanta during the competition on their Facebook page.
Other organizations supporting the local Junior Solar Sprint were Panasonic Solar, Everest Solar Systems and Climate Action Campaign. For more information or to sign up to get notifications for next year’s race, visit www.juniorsolarsprint.org.
News item form Sullivan Solar Power