DERRY — Heavy rains on Saturday morning forced the Junior Solar Sprint scheduled for Hood Park into the Gilbert H. Hood Middle School on Saturday morning, but it didn't slow down the middle school students racing their solar-powered cars.
Students from the Hood and West Running Brook middle schools competed against each other in a national program that was co-sponsored locally by the town's Energy and Environmental Advisory Committee.
About a dozen teams competed, designing and building small model cars powered by sunlight using a solar photovoltaic cell that converts the sun's energy into electricity.
Students began working on the cars in April, and had to consider such critical factors as aerodynamic drag, rolling resistance, weight, and drive train when designing and building, according to Tom Minnon of the environmental advisory committee.
"Students have an exciting opportunity to apply the scientific concepts they are learning in class to a real-world challenge with Junior Solar Sprint," said Minnon. "Kids develop teamwork and problem-solving abilities, investigate environmental issues, gain hands-on engineering skills, and use principles of science and math to get the fastest, most interesting, and best-crafted vehicle possible."
And while there was definitely a focus on crafting lean, fast machines, the students also spent a good amount of time tricking out and painting their cars so they looked like miniature hot rods."It's been a lot of fun," said Hood school student Jackson Puzzi, whose team vehicle, Firestarter, won several heats but wasn't quite fast enough to take the first-place trophy.Bobby Jones, whose daughter Samantha was on the winning Hood school team, said all the students have been working hard to get their cars up to speed to try to win the competition.
In addition to the competition for the fastest car, there were also awards for cars that were the most creative and showed the best craftsmanship.
Nationally, the Junior Solar Sprint program is sponsored by the U.S. Army Educational Outreach Program and is run by the Technology Student Association.