Good article on the solar car race

Went to this article off a link from the race website, and I found it to be particularly interesting.

Road Rules

The Dell-Winston Solar Challenge is more than a race-it’s an all-around “brain sport” for teachers and students.

By Amy Poftak

Seventeen-year-old Chelsey Johnson is zipping down a Texas highway at 35 miles per hour, on the first leg of a 1,000-mile race to Cocoa, Fla. Ahead of him, a lead car scouts out the driving conditions. Trailing is a chase van, where a team of students, armed with laptops, crunch speed and battery life numbers, sending him directives via CB radio.

This is not a video game; it’s the Dell-Winston Solar Challenge, a program that teaches high school students to engineer cars powered by the sun. Founded in 1991 by the private Winston School in Dallas, Texas, the first challenge attracted 90 schools, with three cars qualifying for the final race. Today, 900 schools from 22 countries are involved.

Preparation starts with a workshop in July, where new student teams and their teachers get a dose of best practices, fund-raising ideas, and technical expertise. Kids plot their vehicle designs in the fall, and by springtime, teams must pass rigorous prequalifying tests (aptly called “scrutineering”).

In addition to learning about engineering, alternative energy, battery technology, aerodynamics, computer science, and meteorology, kids have to translate that knowledge into strategy: What speed does the driver need to go to maximize battery power? What’s the best window for sun collection if partly cloudy skies are predicted? Because the race passes through diverse communities, it also provides students with cross-cultural opportunities, from a night of folkloric dancing in Juarez, Mexico, to a dinner at an Apache reservation.

Although largely subsidized by Dell, the Winston School, and other organizations, the program is not inexpensive, with car components alone costing $10,000-$12,000. Organized and sustained fund-raising is essential. For Winston faculty member Lehman Marks, however, the benefits outweigh the costs. “This is one of the best things I’ve ever found to affect kids’ lives,” he says.

Link Up

Dell-Winston Solar Challenge official site:

How to build a solar car:


3 Responses to “Good article on the solar car race”

  1. Sam Park says:

    Sounds cool, Elliot. It reminds me of the FIRST Robotics competition. Hope your team does well.

  2. paint protection says:

    fascinating stuff, I love checking out the interesting designs, some are almost sci – fi looking.

  3. Used Cars says:

    Sounds cool. Let hope they are able to have some practical application of these technologies they are tinkering with.

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