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FORT WORTH, Texas (July 22, 2015) – The searing 100-degree temperatures in North Texas cause grief for many, but for more than 200 high school students participating in the 20th annual Solar Car Challenge the area’s heat wave is the perfect recipe for speed. 

>Students from across the country have congregated inside Texas Motor Speedway to race in the much-anticipated Solar Car Challenge on the venue’s 1.5-mile oval that plays host annually to NASCAR and INDYCAR races. Twenty-nine teams representing 26 different high schools from 11 different states are participating in the four-day solar car competition that got underway Monday morning. 

The challenge for students is to design, build and race a car by harnessing the energy of the sun, allowing students to sharpen their skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. For teams, the process is strenuous but rewarding when the tires hit the track at Texas Motor Speedway. 

“It’s a lot to take in and it’s a really different experience from what we’re use to,” Coppell (Texas) High School student Mackenzie Becker said. “But it’s so cool to see everything and to meet all these people and to see how it works.” 

The Solar Car Challenge, which was established in 1993, has continued to teach high school students how to design, engineer, build and safely drive a roadworthy solar car. The goal for each team is to complete as many laps around the Texas Motor Speedway oval during the four days to earn the championship in their respective division. 

“This is an education program, it’s not just about racing,” Solar Car Challenge Foundation President Dr. Lehman Marks said. “That’s the ice cream on the cake.  What it’s all about here is a program here where students learn how to build a car, put solar cells on it and then we say you can race that car at the best facility in the world – Texas Motor Speedway.”

The divisions consist of the Classic, Open Division, Advanced and the Electric-Solar Powered Car. The Classic requires participants to use inexpensive conventional motors, lead acid batteries and less efficient solar cells. Experienced teams participate in the Open Division, which provides a broader range of expensive technology. The Advanced Division allows teams to use university body models and exotic batteries to power their solar car. 

New to the competition this year is the creation of the Electric-Solar Powered Car division, which injects “realism” into solar car racing. The vehicles are designed for two passengers and powered by solar cells attached to permanent charging stations. 

Not only must the sun power vehicles, but they also must be functional for safety. Each car must come equipped with a roll cage, “crush zones,” safety harness, horn, communications, turn signals and a fire extinguisher. 

For the student and advisors, racing their solar cars on the same track that the greatest NASCAR and INDYCAR drivers compete on is a reward in itself. 

“When they (students) come in through that South Tunnel you can look at their eyes, they gleam with excitement because there are 200,000 seats here – the bigness of it,” Marks said. “Someone told me they thought it (Texas Motor Speedway) was only going to be big enough to play soccer. It’s stunning.” 

This marks the 10th year the Solar Car Challenge has been held on Texas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile speedway. Each year the competition rotates between a closed-track event at Texas Motor Speedway and a cross-country event. 

The competition concludes Thursday with the winners from the four divisions being crowned. The event is free and open to the public. Fans may enter through the South Tunnel and park in the lot adjacent to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage. 

The following states are represented by schools in the competition:

  • Texas (13): All Saints Episcopal School (Fort Worth); Ben Barber Career Tech Academy (Mansfield); Byron Nelson High School (Trophy Club); Coppell High School (Coppell); Grapevine High School (Grapevine); Greenville High School (Greenville); Harmony Science Academy (El Paso); James Madison High School (San Antonio); Presidio High School (Presidio); School of Science and Technology (Corpus Christi); Southwest High School (San Antonio); Stony Point High School (Round Rock); Wylie East High School (Wylie).
  • California (2): Palmdale High School (Palmdale); Walnut Valley Unified School District (Walnut).
  • Florida (2): South Plantation High School (Plantation); Western High School (Davie).
  • Michigan (2): Grosse Pointe South High School (Grosse Pointe Farms); Heroes' Alliance (Detroit).
  • Indiana (1): Bloomington South High School (Bloomington).
  • Minnesota (1): Saint Thomas Academy (Mendota Heights).
  • Mississippi (1): Choctaw Central High School (Choctaw).
  • New York (1): Tottenville High School (Staten Island).
  • Oregon (1): Trinity Lutheran School (Bend).
  • Pennsylvania (1): Devon Preparatory School (Devon).
  • South Carolina (1): Woodland High School (Dorchester). 

For more information on the Solar Car Challenge, visit www.solarcarchallenge.org. 

About the author

The Texas Motor Speedway Media Relations Department is located on the 6th floor of The Speedway Club outside of Turn 1 of the speedway. 

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