The 2016 Solar Car Challenge was a fantastic experience for our team. It was inspiring to see our team pull together and overcome roadblocks. The Titan Solar Car Team was a very different group by the time we crossed the finish line. Throughout the 9 days of the challenge in July, the team matured into a more productive, knowledgeable, and efficient group.
This was a daunting project for a team of high schoolers to approach. For many years, I have been fascinated by the capability of teams that participate in the Solar Car Challenge. Our team started last year by setting goals, and those were as follows:
- Build a full-size road worthy solar-powered car
- Learn as much as possible throughout the process
- Drive our solar-powered car at least 1 mile in the Solar Car Challenge
Getting our car to pass scrutineering was an extremely intense process for our unprepared first year team. With the patience of several Judges, we managed to qualify for the 2016 Solar Car Challenge. Early in the challenge, after driving more than 1 mile, our team began to realize that we had accomplished everything that we set out to achieve. This was a huge milestone for our team, as we then needed to determine goals that would push us further in this year’s event. We were inspired by a rival team’s Walnut Solar Car philosophy to compete with themselves, and so we took on the challenge to outperform ourselves. Each day we began to improve our distance, our urgency, and to collect fewer penalties.
The Solar Car Challenge is a cooperative challenge where “competing” teams work together to obtain an invaluable experience. This organization provides high school students with the opportunity of a lifetime. Voltech, the other competing team in our division, was unbelievably kind and supportive of our team throughout the event. Our team won 1st place in our division, by 0.3 miles with 229.6 total miles. While it is satisfying to claim the Solar EV National Championship, the trophy is not what this unique Challenge is about. Rather, what makes the challenge special is the real-world problems and experiences that instill a collaborative engineering mindset in high school students across the country.
This invaluable opportunity would not have been possible without the exceptional support of our numerous sponsors. Firstly, I would like to thank Toyota for generously being the founding sponsor for our team. The Plano ISD Academy High School is a very special place, that allowed our team to accomplish this incredible feat. A huge thank you to the Solar Car Challenge and Dr. Lehman Marks, who support high school students by providing a remarkable opportunity. Kevin Ng was the advisor to our team and generously sacrificed hundreds of hours to provide this tremendous experience to his students. Additionally I would like to thank all the parents that not only allowed their kids to participate, but involved themselves to make this project possible. Lastly, I would like to thank my fellow students, who stuck together when times got tough, and stayed true to the spirit of the Solar Car Challenge, our school, and our team.