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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Using solar power to race go-karts


Courtesy of Steve Bracamonte

The “Racing the Sun” event gives high schoolers from across the state the chance to create their own go-karts. The teams will gather Saturday to race their karts.

High school students from across the state will be given the chance to race their hand-built solar-powered go-karts at “Racing the Sun” on Saturday.

Molly Gilbert, director of the University and Community Engagement at Tech Parks Arizona, said the UA started this program about four years ago in the 2011-2012 school year to connect the community to solar and engage high school students with business and science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills. In addition, the UA also has some strong programs, like Renewable Energy Network, that are associated with solar and renewable energy, so the competition is a good way to highlight the university’s strengths.

Brenda Hough, community outreach coordinator of Tech Parks Arizona, said Tech Parks Arizona ordered the parts for the go-karts and then had them delivered to the schools.

“We get all the teams together and outline what the competition is, what the requirements are, and we help the teams along the way to make sure they are doing what they need to do to compete on race day,” Hough said. It takes about 500 to 600 hours of work to build a kart. 

Some of the high school teams have standard carts and others have modified carts. This competition has grown from three high schools in the first year to 13 high schools this year.

“We’re seeing teachers take this and embed it into a curriculum in their classroom to provide an educational opportunity for students in high school to take what they are learning in the classroom and apply it,” Gilbert said. 

Steve Bracamonte, a math teacher at Tucson High Magnet School, leads a team as they work on their go-kart. This is the first year that Tucson High has been involved in the race, and they said they want to make the necessary improvements and get the correct materials for next year. In the race, the student driver will be measured based on how far they go in a 20-minute time frame.  

“You can’t just continue to make mistakes,” Bracamonte said. “You try to get it as close to being error-free the first time around.”

Jesus Ortega, a junior at Tucson High Magnet School, is a part of the racing team working to construct the go-kart from the axles to the steering.

“We actually have to come up with a plan and develop skills about physics and math,” Ortega said. “The best part of this whole project was spending time with guys that I don’t know and making new friends.”

Alex Silva, a physics teacher at Tucson High Magnet School, also supervises the students building the go-kart. He said he had never heard about this race until this year. The raw materials purchased amounted to about $500 or $600.

“This is way more affordable for us to participate in compared to other competitions with engineering,” Silva said. “We’ve gotten a little creative, like our seat was just a broken student’s chair.”

Silva said that he likes working with the kids and trying to optimize their kart to be the fastest, the most efficient or both. 

The race will be held Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.


Follow Amber White on Twitter.

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