Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Students failed to let clouds ruin solar car race

They built car bodies from shoe boxes, 12-pack Coke containers, cardboard and egg cartons. They stripped tires from toy race cars. They recycled jelly jar tops and even fashioned wheels from compact discs.
In the end, Bartlett High and White Station Middle teams dominated the third annual 2015 MLGW’s A-Blazing Solar Car Race. Both grabbed first place honors in speed and best use of materials. East High STEM Academy and Houston Middle won for best notebooks in their respective divisions.
Unfortunately, the sun hid behind the clouds and prevented racers from showing their true top speeds. For the first time, Memphis Light, Gas and Water partnered with the University of Memphis and its Engineering Day events and activities on Oct. 23. The race attracted 19 teams from local schools and homeschoolers. Some schools had three separate teams to compete.
“We built six cars and brought our top three,” said Collierville Middle School teacher Shelley Pitts. She lamented about the sun’s refusal to shine. One of their teams won the first middle school heat with the Dominator. The day before the race, she said, “It was a speed demon.”
Havenview Middle School teacher Tanja Owens knows she will push her students to put in extra work next year: “We need to do some research on how to get our solar cars to work on cloudy days. They tested on sunny days. I don’t think we ever tested it on cloudy days.”
MLGW solar car race coordinator Kerry Roy considers the race a success especially in partnering with U of M’s E-Day. By hosting the race during a school day instead of the summer, she said, “We had a much larger turnout than in previous years.”
 In all, 22 volunteers assisted with the event. Plans are already underway for next year’s race. “We are talking about adding a battery component to the vehicles or having artificial lights on hand to use in inclement weather,” Roy added.
 The race was the brainchild of MLGW CEO and President Jerry R. Collins Jr.  The idea is to attract the attention of students early on so that they will consider a career in engineering. 

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