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solar car challenge @ Texas Motor Speedway

FORT WORTH, Texas (July 19, 2017)

The annual Solar Car Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway is underway with a record number of teams participating.

This year 36 teams are competing in the four-day competition at TMS, which makes the event the largest Solar Car Challenge in the Western Hemisphere.

“We are excited to get this started,” Dr. Lehman Marks of the Solar Car Challenge Foundation said. “We have teams from all over the United States and other countries to produce a moving product on the race track and it has been very successful.”

solar car challengeThe Solar Car Challenge is an education program designed to help motivate students in science, engineering and alternative energy. The program teaches high school students how to plan, design, engineer, build, race and evaluate roadworthy solar cars. In the end, all of these students demonstrate that green technology can create a better world.

Science & Technology Magazine named the Solar Car Challenge as one of the top science & engineering programs in the country. This year’s Challenge had 181 high school solar car projects in various stages of development in anticipation of an upcoming solar racing event. Teams are located in 36 states, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas.

The high school teams began preparation for this week’s race back in September of 2016 during a series of workshops. Additional workshops, on-site visits, mentor opportunities and camps helped propel these projects to success over the last 10 months.

The teams will race for approximately 7-8 hours a day through Saturday with the winners being the ones that complete the most laps.

“It wasn’t that long ago the winning team would complete 200 laps but this week we expect the winning teams to be closer to 600 laps,” Dr. Marks said. “It has been remarkable to see what these teams have been able to accomplish as they learn more about the technology in the cars.”

A team making its debut at the Solar Car Challenge is from the Bahamas. They are the first team from the Caribbean to make it to Texas Motor Speedway for the race.

“It has been a great experience to develop and build this car,” said Gio Embleton of Saint John’s College in Nassau. “We have all learned a lot about problem solving and engineering during this process and we are excited to be here representing our country.”

“Over the years we have worked with over 50,000 students since we began this in 1990,” Dr. Marks said. “It has now expanded across North American and when they get here and to see their faces that is a gratifying feeling to know you have made an impact on their lives.”

This marks the 12th 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. 

Teams compete in one of four divisions Classic, Open, Advanced and 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. The Electric-Solar Powered Car division injects "realism" into solar car racing. These vehicles hold two passengers and are 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.

Schools from North Texas in this year’s Challenge include: Liberty Christian Academy, Argyle; Ben Barber Career Tech Academy, Mansfield; Greenville High School; Coppell High School; Prosper High School; All Saints Episcopal School, Fort Worth; Winston School, Dallas; Wylie East High School; Covenant Christian Academy, Colleyville; Plano Academy; Mineral Wells High School and Byron Nelson High School, Trophy Club.

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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