Local Youth Put Energy into Junior Solar Sprint Competition

“The CD Players” and “Plan B” were among 60 model solar-powered cars competing in Maine’s 22nd Annual Junior Solar Sprint on June 11 at the Owls Head

Transportation Museum. Eight midcoast area youth took part in the program, spending several weeks learning how to design and build cars that run with motors powered by solar panels then competing against other teams from across Maine. The challenge involves designing a car that can travel down a 20-meter racetrack in the fastest time, all while securely carrying a soda can “payload.”

“The overcast skies didn’t dampen the enthusiasm one bit,” said Lynn Farrin, local Lead STEM Guide for Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance (MMSA). “We’re very proud of all of the young engineers who participated. This was a great group of kids to work with, and they’re already excited about next year!”

Local youth designed and built their cars from scratch using their engineering skills, artistic abilities, and knowledge of math and science. In addition to figuring out how to use the solar panel to power the motor, students needed to build a stable car chassis, complete with working drive train and outfitted with efficient wheels. Cars went through many iterations with students often “going back to the drawing board” to try out a new idea. Eventually it came down to fine tuning their creations in preparation for competition. On race day, teams competed in heats racing their cars, six at a time, down parallel tracks in double elimination rounds until a winner was determined. Cars are also evaluated by a panel of judges in the categories of technical merit, innovation in design, craftsmanship, best use of recycled materials, and kids’ choice.

The solar car work sessions were made possible through a programming collaboration between the Central Lincoln County’s YMCA’s Teen Center and the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance’s STEM Guides project. MMSA’s STEM Guides project is supported by National Science Foundation grant #1322827, to increase out-of-school access to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) opportunities in rural areas. For more information or to view additional pictures and videos of the JSS, contact the Y or Lead STEM Guide Lynn Farrin at lfarrin@67.205.176.97, 207.592.8927, or through the CLC STEM Guides Facebook page.

This story was also featured in the Lincoln County News.

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