Junior Solar Sprint competition ends in dramatic finish

July 11, 2014

Get ready, get set, and go! It was a dramatic finish to the end between the nine teams of solar powered model cars competing for the championship win during the inaugural Junior Solar Sprint competition held on Saturday, June 7 at the STEM Education and Outreach Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.

The JSS is a nationwide competition funded by the Army Educational Outreach Program, which challenges teams of students from elementary and middle school to design, construct and race small model cars powered entirely by solar energy. In preparation for the competition, students are guided by a parent, teacher or mentor and encouraged to utilize and implement their knowledge of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, commonly referred to as STEM, principles.

Through demonstration of hands-on team efforts in problem solving and imagination, model cars must meet design specifications to qualify for the competition. Prior to the event, each team received a JSS kit with materials for assembling their model. Kits contained the required solar cell modules, an official solar motor, motor mounting brackets with screws, gears for motor shaft and two alligator clips. The success and performance of the final model is based solely on the creative thinking and experimentations done by each team prior to the JSS competition.

The day began with team registration, model inspections and practiced tests runs of the solar powered model vehicles on a test track outside the STEM center prior to the start of the three afternoon heat races. Both civilian and military personnel were on hand to volunteer for registration, solar vehicle inspection, provide race assignments, assemblage of teams, model and vehicle regulation reviews, and documentation judging, which followed the races.

The winner of the final heat race was a sporty solar powered car designed by the rising sun racers; a three student team with members from the Cecil County Boys and Girls Club. The team won by finishing with the fastest time on the 20-meter track. Second place in the final heat race was team Thunderstruck from Robert Frost Middle School who finished the race in 5.6 seconds.

Three special category awards were presented to the following teams:

  • The best reuse of materials award: Team E from Homestead Wakefield Elementary School
  • Artistic merit award: Team I, 2 Golden Rays of Sunshine, from Edgewood area CYS
  • Team spirit: Team D, BAMS from Bel Air Middle School

The final top three awards for the overall APG JSS competition championship were determined based criteria from an accumulation of points received by each team. Teams were judged on the performance of their model to include: display, design quality, design creativity and construction quality. Teams were also judged on regulation and documentation with criteria to include: notebook components, project log, design details/components list and design process description. Points earned in the heat races were also included.

Championship trophies were awarded to the following teams:

  • First place winners: Team Thunderstruck from Robert Frost Middle School
  • Second place winners: Team BAMS from Bel Air Middle School
  • Third place winners: Team Solar Flair from Robert Frost Middle School

Dr. Sandra Young, a materials engineer with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, not only provided remarks, she also announced the winners and presented team awards. Young commented on the competitive camaraderie and the overall success of the day's event.

"This is a fantastic STEM event for students where we continue to work to provide unique STEM opportunities," Young said. "We really saw some great engineering-on-the-fly today as students worked on their models between races to improve their performance but also interacted with other teams to learn more about how other teams built their cars differently."

First and second place winning teams of the APG competition received trophies and an all-expenses paid trip to attend and participate in the upcoming Technology Student Association conference and compete in the national JSS event, held June 29-30 in Washington, D.C.

To learn more, visit the AEOP website at www.usaeop.com.


Last Update / Reviewed: July 11, 2014