Solar Sprint Time Trials Test Technical Talent Of West Teams

Earth Day turned out to be an ideal date to demonstrate the power of the sun.

Kapolei Middle and Waipahu Intermediate School students arrived on the tennis courts at Kapolei High School April 22 ready to test the performance of their model solar-powered vehicles in timed trials.


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Kapolei Middle student Maya Enhada (left) will uncover the PV panel on her lightweight solar-powered vehicle when volunteer Mark Adato signals the start of the timed Solar Sprint Exhibition run on the tennis courts at Kapolei High School.

All entries were created from lightweight, bare frames strong enough to support a mini photovoltaic panel and small electric motor.

The annual Solar Sprint Exhibition comes courtesy of Hawaiian Electric Co. and the Hawaii DOE.

“We want to encourage students to learn how the sun’s energy is converted into useful electrical energy,” explained HECO’s program administrator Kimm Teruya.

The cars had to sprint down a 20-meter course within 20 seconds, or about 3 feet per second. To exceed the standard, the students added lead

weights to attempt to run the same course in 30 seconds. Along with the two West Oahu schools, other solar teams (about 350 youths) came from Wheeler and Niu Valley middle schools; and Laie and Waianae Elementary schools.

“The students are realizing that they learned about energy conservation and transfer of energy in science class,” said Ariel Villanueva, Kapolei Middle’s industrial technology teacher, “but now they see the application.”

Added Waipahu Intermediate math teacher Renee Blue: “The activity wraps everything together and makes it easy to teach STEM concepts.”