Science Fun With Solar Sprint

Event volunteer Ken Kajihara is about to signal the start of the 2012 Solar Sprint for Laie Elementary School student Laramie Kimball, whose model solar-powered vehicle will race down the 60-foot course. The April 26 race at Kapolei High School also drew entries from Kahuku, Waipahu and Wheeler Intermediate, and Niu Valley and Kapolei Middle schools. Photo from Janet Crawford of HECO.

Oahu students tested the speed of 160 handmade model solar vehicles at the annual Solar Sprint, held recently on the Kapolei High School campus.

Laie Elementary School joined the fray on the 60-foot track, alongside entries from Kahuku, Wheeler and Waipahu Intermediate; and Kapolei and Niu Valley Middle schools.

The April 26 sprint saw 360 students, working in pairs, release the vehicles they’d built from kits and hope they would finish with no mechanical problems. For most, it was their first experience working with electrical wires, which connected the small motors to the mini photo-voltaic panels on top of the small frames.

“The Solar Sprint is part of the curriculum at Laie Elementary – our educational standards include energy,” explained sixth-grade science teacher BarbaraJean Kahawaii. “The students are challenged by the exhibition and enjoy being creative as they build their model cars.”

The event is sponsored by the DOE and Hawaiian Electric Co. to provide hands-on lessons for the children in principles of science and math and the power of the sunshine. The basic requirement is to complete the race course in 20 seconds. To exceed that, they can add 12 ounces of lead weights to the vehicle frames and try to finish the same course in under 35 seconds.