Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Race is On...

The Dell-Winston School Solar Car Challenge, that is, which begins this weekend. The eleventh running of this race features over eighteen teams of high school students from around the country that have built their own solar-powered cars. The festivities begin on Sunday, and are followed by four days of competition at the Texas Motor Speedway, outside of Dallas.

While the event is sure to be a lot of fun for participants and spectators, the Challenge was created for educational purposes: Dallas' The Winston School began a program in 1993 to teach students how to build solar-powered cars in order to spur their interests in the sciences, engineering and technology. For student participants, the race is the culmination of a two-year curriculum developed by the school. Races in even years take place at the Speedway, while in odd years, the participants race their cars across country to show them off to an even bigger audience.

Which team is favored to win? While the promoters didn't share any odds with me, keep an eye on the Sundancer team from Houston Vocational Center in Houston, Mississippi, as they've won the challenge for five years running. The folks at SCHOTT North America are very proud of the team, as they've provided the photovoltaic cells that have powered each of the Sundancer's winning cars. If you're a genuine speed fan, this might not be your thing, as last year's winner ran at an average speed of 28.63 mph. It's not NASCAR, but it's an awful lot cleaner (and probably quieter), and regardless of who wins, a lot of high school students are receiving a real education in the potential of solar energy. Maybe ESPN will pick this up one year... that would be a race I'd watch!

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