Model car race, building competition illuminate solar energy

May 8, 2003 — Tapping the power of the sun will be the theme of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Junior Solar Sprint Solarbrate event on May 10. Visitors will see participating students race solar cars and build solar models using K’NEX construction toys.

Sponsored by NREL, Kaiser-Hill, BP American, Inc., Midwest Research Institute, Battelle and Bechtel, the Junior Solar Sprint and Solar Model Building Competition give students from around the state the opportunity to show their engineering and design skills by building and racing model solar-powered vehicles and solar powered models.

For the Junior Solar Sprint, each team starts with a motor and a silicon solar cell, which converts light into electricity. Using any other materials, competitors design and build vehicles no larger than 12 inches wide, 24 inches long and 12 inches high. The 20-meter race is a double elimination competition with awards going to the five fastest cars. Five design awards also will be given for technology, craftsmanship and innovation.

Students in the Solar Model Building Competition use a K’NEX Energy System Kit Model, which contains 1,082 pieces, two motors and two solar panels. With it, they must design and build a solar-powered model that moves or has moving parts powered only by the sun. The winner of the contest will be the team whose model is awarded the most points by the judges.

NREL is a national laboratory managed by Midwest Research Institute, Battelle and Bechtel. In addition to its work on biotechnology for fuels and chemicals, the lab is a leading center for research into photovoltaics, wind energy, energy-efficient buildings, advanced vehicle design and hydrogen fuel cells.

In the Junior Solar Sprint, from 11a.m. – 2:30 p.m., forty-four teams of middle school students from across Colorado will race model solar cars designed to use the sun’s energy.

In the Solar Model Building Competition at 9:30 a.m., nine middle-school student teams tap their creative energy to design and build solar powered models such as a lunar rover or Ferris wheel using K’NEX construction toys.

In addition to the competitions, NREL’s Visitors Center will be open from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. The Visitors Center offers an interactive exhibit hall and videos on renewable energy. The Junior Solar Sprint Solarbrate event is free and open to the public. :

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