Solar Sprint Draws Designers To Kapolei

Sun power and brain power were put to the test last month during the annual Solar Sprint exhibition at Kapolei High School, where hundreds of seventh- and eighth-graders raced their handmade, model solar-powered vehicles.

Supported by a mini photovoltaic panel and a small electric motor, each entry had to travel a 20-meter course within 20 seconds – that’s about three feet per second. Students could add lead weights to attempt the 35-second race as well.


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DOE volunteer June Motokawa (standing) prepares to signal the test race for Waipahu Intermediate student Jayson Estranero at HECO's 2013 Solar Sprint. Photos from Janet Crawford.

“Having a hands-on project really hits the nail on the head, as far as learning concepts,” said Waipahu Intermediate math teacher Renee Blue. “Building something and seeing the renewable energy in action really drives home the concept.”

Regardless of their “real” learning, the students from Waipahu Intermediate and Kapolei Middle schools enjoyed bringing their designs for the lightweight, bare-frame racers to life.

And the lesson (shhh!) was all about energy. “They can see on a small scale how electricity is produced by the solar panel and how the energy gets transferred to the electric motor and on to the vehicle’s wheels,” added Ariel Villanueva, industrial tech teacher at Kapolei Middle.

Sponsored by the DOE and Hawaiian Electric Co., the April 18 races also attracted teams from Kahuku High and Intermediate, Laie Elementary, Niu Valley Middle and Wheeler Intermediate schools.