Fort Worth

Vehicles built by teens face off in Solar Car Challenge

One team brought their solar car all the way from New York for the Solar Car Challenge.
One team brought their solar car all the way from New York for the Solar Car Challenge.

The Solar Car Challenge, which took place from July 15 to July 19, isn’t the type of race you would normally see at Texas Motor Speedway.

The cars don’t really go all that fast. Some have trouble reaching 15 miles per hour. There’s no checkered flag at the end. Its days are long, and it doesn’t end when the requisite number of laps have been reached.

Instead, the cars each take to the track and race, or sometimes crawl, their way around one mile of pavement. The car that makes the most laps wins.

The biggest difference is probably that all the work, from building the cars to maintaining them to actually driving them, is done by high school students.

Some of the cars use special technology, like telemetry, while some have to swap out batteries because they don’t actually have their solar panels attached.

Here’s a look at a few of the cars these high school students have created.

All Saints from Fort Worth

The All Saints team has been working on this car for seven years. Tweaking, improving, rewiring, fixing and making major modifications, all by students, help keep the car ready for the next race, whether it be cross-country or on a closed track.

The All Saints solar car has evolved over seven years of planning, modifying and improving.

Staten Island Solar Car

This car all the way from Staten Island, New York, may have been one of the most advanced on the track this year. The students who built it, some of whom are already accepted and enrolled to start at universities like MIT in the fall, included live telemetry. This allows them to track the energy production, use and reserves along with speed to better strategize.

The Staten Island Solar Car, called the spaceship by some at the Solar Car Challenge, relies on technology to be most effective.

Arlington’s first race

Arlington’s Martin High School raced for the first time at the Solar Car Challenge track race. Their team captain, Andrew Spain, said they were doing well for a first time, but they had also identified some areas to improve. Still, with telemetry on their car (though not live, meaning they have to wait for the car to come to the pits to gather data), their car is one of the more advanced on the track.

In their first year, the James Martin High School team identified some room for improvement, like in their tires.

The Shine Runner

Education is important to the team from Ben Barber Innovation Academy. So is having a good time. The Shine Runner team gets some of both at these races. Their car, with formula one suspension, stands out on the track. It can even hit 60 miles per hour if the gas (or sun?) is floored, though not for long. It’s not a limitation of solar energy, the captain said, but the batteries they use in these races.

The Shine Runner team is here to win and to learn. But they're also here to have fun.

James Hartley is the Arlington city government reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He is passionate about local politics, true stories, movies and baseball. He has worked for the Tyler Morning Telegraph, D Magazine and the Dallas Observer. You can connect with James on Twitter @ByJamesHartley or Instagram @JamesTakesPhotos. Want reporters like James to help you stay informed about your community? You can help the Star-Telegram continue to offer great local, political, sports and culture news by purchasing a digital or print subscription today.