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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Sun karting

Savannah Douglas

High schools participating in the Racing the Sun competition on Musselman Honda Circuit on Saturday. The goal of the competition is to engage students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics through firsthand experience.

High school students competed in a solar-powered go-kart race on Saturday for the fourth annual Racing the Sun competition at Musselman Honda Circuit, which was hosted by the UA Science and Technology Park.

The goal of the competition was to engage students in STEM by having students participate in a competition that utilizes firsthand experience.

“What we are trying to do here is show them that science, technology, engineering and math are great fields to go into,” said Molly Gilbert, director of University and Community Engagement at UA Tech Parks. “It takes it out of the normal classroom curriculum and puts it into a perspective where they are actually applying it. So it creates deeper meaning for them. I think it is more engaging for them rather than just sitting reading a book and testing.”

This is an important event for these students, as it allows them to get a base knowledge in STEM in addition to a sustainable energy source. It provides them with an early start to a career if they choose to continue down this path, Gilbert said.

Gilbert added that it started four years ago “with just three high schools [the] first year, [growing] to 13 high schools this year with about 100 students in the program.”

The race had two different classes of karts: the standard class, for which each team had the same chassis and designed the rest of the cart themselves, or the modified class, in which the students fabricated the entire car on their own.

The standard kart teams were Canyon del Oro, Center for Academic Success, Corona del Sol, Ironwood, Mountain Pointe, Pima Community College Upward Bound, San Luis and Shadow Mountain. The modified kart teams were Desert Vista Team 5, Desert Vista Team 6, Desert Vista Team 7, Dysart & Shadow Ridge, McClintock, Sabino Team 1, Sabino Team 2 and Tucson Magnet.

The smallest error on a kart could be the difference between going for 15 laps and not going at all. After the races, a total of seven awards were given out for endurance and speed:

Best Verbal Presentation — Desert Vista Team 7

Best Team Spirit — Mountain Pointe

Standard Speed Winner — Sabino 2

Standard Endurance Winner — Canyon Del Oro

Modified Speed Winner — Desert Vista Team 5

Modified Endurance Winner — Tie between Desert Vista Team 5 and Desert Vista Team 7

Grand Champion — Desert Vista Team 5

“It means a lot because we had entered last year, and we were one of those cars that, when the race started, we went for it and stopped,” said Bryce Long, a senior at Canyon del Oro High School, about winning the standard endurance competition. “So, it feels great to just see my brother pass them and keep going and keep up with the team that won last year, which was Sabino.”

The race is a time commitment the students started at the beginning of the year.

“We pulled a lot of all-nighters, spent a long time making the frame for the solar panel to mount on,” Long said. “We also spent a lot of time making it one-wheel drive. So, cutting the axle in half and mounting it in different places.”

After the race, the UA Solar Car Team displayed their car by taking a few laps around the track.

Michael Shim, a senior at Desert Vista High school, said he thinks he will continue doing this when he attends Arizona State University in the fall where he will join the ASU solar team.

“We found out during the competition was that solar energy is very efficient in places like Arizona where there is a lot of sun and heat,” Shim said. “There are a lot of industrial and civil applications we can use it for.”

Racing the Sun is growing every year and is creating more interest in STEM fields.

“I think there is an opportunity to grow and get bigger,” Gilbert said. “We were just in New Mexico yesterday, and we have another university that’s interested in participating. And we have been talking to ASU about expanding and working with them on it.”


Follow Louis Vitiritti on Twitter.

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