Solar Sprint

Learning about solar energy can be fascinating, especially for students building solar-powered cars in Michael Finnerty’s science classes at Athens Academy.

The Solar Sprint Race program gives students a hands-on approach to solar power exploration. Students learn the basics about solar energy and engineering concepts from building derby-style cars from scratch and then racing each other in a bracket format.

Walton EMC has provided the solar car kits, additional construction materials and trophies for middle school classes since 2009.

Students lining up to race solar-powered cars“We talk about how that solar energy can be used and stored even in a smaller scale in a residential setting, but it’s also becoming a much bigger power usage technology in an industrial setting,” says Finnerty.

Participants customize each sun-powered vehicle with brightly colored embellishments and race mottos.

“I had a lot of fun, especially because I want to be an engineer when I grow up,” said student Andrew Hill. “Being able to design my own little car in seventh grade was sort of like a dream come true.”

Solar Sprint lesson plans seamlessly mix education with entertainment.

“We have kids being introduced to Walton EMC and discovering our company could be a career path for them one day,” says Walton EMC Youth and Community Representative Jennifer Broun. “The most important takeaway is that students understand that Walton EMC serves their community and that we’re here for more than to just supply their power.”

Six Things You May Not Know About Solar Power

  • Solar energy is the most abundant energy resource on Earth – 173,000 terawatts of solar energy strikes the Earth continuously.
  • The first silicon solar cell, the precursor of all solar-powered devices, was built by Bell Laboratories in 1954.
  • The space industry was an early adopter of solar technology.
  • The amount of solar power installed in the U.S. has increased more than 23 times over the past eight years.
  • As prices continue to fall, solar energy is increasingly becoming a viable generation source for electric power.
  • California’s Mojave Desert is home to Ivanpah Solar Power Facility, the world’s largest operating solar thermal energy plant.