NREL's 24th solar and lithium ion car races create winning students



Indy-500-style checkered flags, high-tech neoprene rubber tracks, and of course, sponsor decals graced the site of today's Junior Solar Sprint and Lithium Ion Battery car competitions for Colorado's middle schoolers. Nearly 300 students on 74 teams from 21 Colorado schools converged on Dakota Ridge High School to vie for a spot in the final races using solar and lithium ion battery powered vehicles they designed and built themselves.

"We went for lightweight and aerodynamic," Matthew Heitmann with the team from Calhan Middle School. "I'm coming back next year for sure, it's fun."

Each year, the Energy Department's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and other local sponsors host the races to show middle-school students that science, engineering, and design can be rewarding and to encourage them toward careers in STEM -- science, technology, engineering, and math. The batteries used in the competition are supplied by the DOE and teams purchase authorized solar panels, then design and build the rest of their cars themselves. Solar and lithium ion battery power are highlighted at the competition since they are important research focuses for NREL and DOE.

Trophies for the fastest solar powered model cars were given to students from Calhan Middle School (Calhan), "Green Team" first place; Bell Middle School (Golden), "Team Bell 3," second place; and Sabin Middle School (Colorado Springs), "SRD," third place.

Three solar design trophies based on technology, craftsmanship and innovation were given to teams Woodlands Academy (Castle Rock), "Ring Ding the Fox," first place; Deer Creek Middle School (Littleton), "The Car," second place; Bell Middle School, "Team Bell 3," third place.

Trophies for the fastest lithium-ion powered model cars were given to Colorado students from William Roberts E-8 (Denver), "The Dinos," first place; Lincoln Academy Middle School (Arvada), "Epic with Brains," second place; and D'Evelyn Junior/Senior High School (Denver), "D'Evelyn Team 2," third place.

Three lithium-ion design trophies based on technology, craftsmanship and innovation were given to teams from The Manning School (Jeffco), "Manning Battery 2," first place; Woodlands Academy, "The Antmobile," second place; and D'Evelyn Junior/Senior High School, "D'Evelyn Team 1," third place.

The "Emmie the Swan" team from Woodlands Academy was awarded the Spirit Award for exhibiting good sportsmanship, including fairness and respectful behavior.

The annual competition is sponsored by NREL, DOE's Office of Science, the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, Jefferson County Schools, Dakota Ridge High School, and the DOE Golden Service Center. Phil Long Ford of Denver, Whole Foods Market, Sam's Club and Mahnke Auto Body supported the event by providing lunches and trophies for the winning teams.