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The roller slammed into a track barrier, built by solar mounting systems supplier Unirac, and its rear wheels jumped-up from the course. Nothing was damaged during that crash or a dozen or so subsequent ones, but the impacts elicited a few “aahs.”
“It’s just they go so epically fast, how do you not crash?” Slater asked, without overstating the speed. In a good straightaway, solar rollers can reach 28 mph.
Their car was mangled after a competitor crashed into them and they were 40 laps down, working feverishly to get back on the track as other teams’ remote control solar race cars sped past.
And that’s when they had their MacGyver moment.
They replaced a non-replaceable broken king pin with the top of a drill bit and the spring from an ink pen.
“These brave students, teachers and team leaders from the community have really jumped in with both feet to learn about energy here. The effort they’ve put into strategizing, tinkering, experimenting, testing and refining has to be commended. They are already victors at the starting line.” said Davis.
“The idea is that adults have not been very successful with solving energy problems,” he said, “So let’s give young people the tools they need to make changes as they enter the workforce and become consumers.” Solar Rollers teaches kids how energy systems work because, he explained, energy use is the most important human interaction with the planet. “It’s so easy to convince yourself that you’re maintaining an interaction with the planet by hiking up Castle Creek but it’s also about energy use in your car or in your home,” he explained.
The lightweight car on the table is about the size of an oven door, and it kind of looks like one too but, with wheels. A rectangular piece of carbon fiber lays on top of four wheels taken from a store-bought remote controlled car kit. The guts of the car like the battery and motor are underneath it. And, solar cells stretch across the carbon fiber top.
John Starr, a student at Yampah High, explains the solar car design he came up with for his school’s team.
“It’s changed since the original conception, as we tried to fit the parts and make the frame strong enough to protect the solar panel,” Starr said of the delicate glass panels, which are just a 10th of a millimeter thick. “It should be stiffer and stronger, and shouldn’t weigh any more than it has to.
“Something like this gives us more experience, and lets us practice some of the concepts we’ve already learned,” Starr said.
Solar Rollers will be at the Circuit of the Americas outside Austin Texas to run a demonstration race as part of the Formula Sun Grand Prix/American Solar Challenge event. The demo race will be run at solar noon on July 19 - the final day of the Formula Sun Grand Prix and the public day at the track.
This unique display will allow Intersolar participants to experience firsthand the excitement of Solar Rollers, an innovative new energy education program for high schools. To take part in the program, each high school team designs, hand-builds and races a sophisticated solar-powered remote control car.
The Solar Rollers Special Exhibit will feature an active racetrack for these surprisingly quick PV-powered machines. The program and its parent non-profit, Energetics Education, will be at Intersolar seeking support from the solar industry for the national expansion of this award-winning program.