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Solar Knights Race with the Sun (USA)

Credits: ©2010 Solar Knights

Eschewing conventional high school activities, a team of students from South Plantation High School in Florida instead participate in the Solar Knights, a group that spends its time building and racing a solar car. In 2009, the Solar Knights came in first place in the national Winston Solar Car Challenge, and in 2010, they came in second place - partly due to two days of rainy, cloudy weather. Last year, the South Plantation students were presented with the Hunt Oil Award for the solar car team displaying the highest level of increased engineering excellence at the Challenge. The team plans to participate in the 2011 Challenge, but they need new solar cells for next year’s car. The Solar Car Challenge was established in 1993 to help motivate students in science and engineering, and to increase alternative energy awareness. The Challenge hosts annual races alternating between a cross-country race and a closed-track race. The 2010 Solar Car Challenge was an 850-mile cross-country race from Dallas. Texas, to Boulder, Colorado, featuring 22 science and engineering student teams building road-worthy solar cars; the Florida students drove a total of 735.6 miles for more than 31 hours, with an average speed of 23.23 mph. The team also won an “Order of the Solar Cell” award for being “extremely special people who believe in high school solar car racing, and the great students who make it happen.” The 2009 Challenge was held at the Texas Motor Speedway, and in the Classic Division, the South Plantation Solar Knights went for a total of 395 laps and 592.5 miles.


Solar Knights Racing Team

Florida's South Plantation High School Solar Knights Racing Team built a car powered by the sun, and it finished second in the 850-mile cross-country race from Dallas, Texas to Boulder, Colorado, in 2010. ©2010 Solar Knight 2 Students

Click here to donate to the student Solar Knights Racing Team

Solar Knights Car Details
Vehicle length - 4.740 m

Vehicle width - 1.625 m

Vehicle height- 1.257 m

Vehicle weight (without driver) - 900 lb

Five PowerSonic Batteries
30.5 lbs, 40 Ah per battery

Solar Cells
Cell Manufacturer - Sony

Number of cells: 6 panels

Length: 4.740 m

Width: 1.625 m

Overall size: 7.7 meters squared

Efficiency: 17%

Type 1: Hydraulic Disk Brakes [front]

Type 2: Hydraulic Disk Brakes [rear]

Motor - Perm-Motor PMG 132, 9.0 hp

About the Solar Car Challenge
In 1993, the Winston Solar Car Team launched an education program to teach high school students how to build and safely race roadworthy solar cars. The Winston Solar Education Program met this objective, and works to provide curriculum materials, on-site visits, and workshop opportunities for high schools across the country. This program, a part of The Winston School (Dallas, TX), was designed to motivate students in the sciences, engineering, and technology. The end product of each two-year education cycle is the Winston Solar Challenge: a closed-track event at the world famous Texas Motor Speedway, or a cross country event designed to give students an opportunity to display their work.

From the Project Earth Blog
May 2010

As part of the Environmental Science Magnet School at South Plantation High School, all magnet students are required to be involved in an independent or group project that will culminate their magnet experience. Four years ago, several of the eleventh grade magnet students were interested in the field of engineering but were reluctant to begin an environmental engineering project. Nothing seemed to spark their interest until they found the Dell-Winston Solar Challenge. After reading about the competition and the wide variety of solar cars which compete, the students were inspired to build their own solar car and compete against other high school teams in a race across the United States!

This talented group of students quickly began building the Solar Knight I, South Plantation High’s first solar car. The car, which the students spent hundreds of hours building, ran completely off the energy captured by the huge solar panels mounted on top of the car. The Solar Knight I went on to participate in the Dell-Winston Solar car race that summer which began in Texas and went cross-country.

Today (May 2010), that small group of students has grown into a club of nearly twenty students as well as a Solar and Alternative Energy research class.

The Solar Knights have gone on to build the Solar Knight II and is making plans to build the Solar Knight III in the upcoming school year. In addition to building solar cars, many of the students have also built other alternative energy projects including a solar cooker, candle power radio, electric car, etc. The students meet every day after school to work on modifications to the car, raise money, work on other projects, etc.

Community outreach has become a huge part of who the Solar Knights are. The Solar Knight Project has impacted over 4,500 students, 100 teachers, and thousands of people throughout South Florida and its local community. Through demonstrations done on engineering days, a magnet camp for freshmen, a magnet open house, car shows, the “Speed” exhibit at Museum of Discovery and Science, Water Matters Day and other community venues and showcase opportunities, they have educated thousands of people in their community about environmental issues and environmentally-friendly energy alternatives.

One “shining” example of the Solar Knights community involvement was the Junior Solar Sprint hosted in April of 2010. More 100 eighth grade students and eight eighth grade science teachers at New River Middle, Seminole Middle, Plantation Middle and Driftwood Middle School were introduced to the concept and application of solar power. The Solar Knights presented an exciting, hands-on curriculum to middle school students about renewable energy and inspired them to think about building their own solar projects.

Each middle school was given five Junior Solar Sprint Solar Kits complete with materials needed to build their own mini solar cars. A month later the schools were asked back to race their solar cars against the other school teams. Each school received an award at the end and many of the students are now looking forward to joining the Solar Knights when they reach high school.

Currently (May 2010), the Solar Knights are excited about improving the Solar Knight II in an attempt to compete in the cross country race starting in Texas and racing through New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado this summer (2010) in the Dell-Winston Solar Car Challenge. The Solar Knights won the competition last year and are the current reigning National Champions. Their goal for this year is to maintain their title. (The Solar Knights came in second in the 2010 challenge.) These students have sacrificed hundreds of hours after school, during summer and winter vacations, spring break, weekends, and holidays building and modifying the Solar Knight II. While competing in a solar car race is extremely challenging, the students are always willing to take this project a few steps further. in science


Winston Solar Car Challenge (USA)

Solar Knights Racing Team (Plantation, Florida)