Around 325 people, including participants, spectators and students gathered for the Solar Technology Showcase at the University of Arizona Tech Park at Rita Ranch on Saturday, July 21. The event showcased some of the nation’s most tech-savvy high school students involved in solar-powered car challenges.
Bruce Wright, associate vice president of Tech Parks Arizona, said the event was great for putting student-made technology on display.
“The overall goal is to increase recognition of the solar car program,” Wright said. “We also aim to excite the students participating as well as ones who want to get involved.”
According to its website, the Solar Car Challenge functions as a way for high school students around the nation to demonstrate what they are capable of doing. It is a non-profit, educational organization that holds events around the country, like the one at UA Tech Park.
After the day’s races, every team presented their solar-powered vehicles to a waiting audience. Prior to the presentation, Logan Wood, captain of The Iron Lines team from Greenville High School in Greenville, Texas talked about how he enjoyed Tucson.
“It is great to be here. My team and I are very excited,” Wood said. “All 14 of my teammates have been working hard, and it is so exciting to show the audience our car. We were named the national champions last year, and as captain I want to be able maintain the championship throne.”
Due to the event layout, spectators were able to focus on each unique kart. Different styles, colors, motors, brakes, batteries and sizes of carts were on hand.
The most popular display seemed to be the eco-friendly go-karts, which created a huddle of people interested both in the technology and the teams’ presentations.
Event coordinator Lehman Marks, who sets up and runs solar car events nationwide, reflected on the meaning of the showcase.
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“The overall goal here is to have everyone feel like a winner,” he said. “This is the 23rd national Solar Car Challenge so we want to challenge our participants but also make sure everyone feels like they have already won.”
Marks mentioned that the skills high school students pick up by participating in the challenge translate well to certain disciplines at colleges and universities.
“A lot of these high school engineers do, in fact, enter college majoring mechanical engineering, civil engineering or electrical engineering,” he said.
And for students who might not be interested in those hard-science based majors? Marks isn’t worried.
“A lot of our participants may continue on with their college careers studying in law, communication or journalism, etcetera. These young individuals all have a unique talent of their own.”
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