Solar Grand Prix Set To Heat Up El Dorado Park

April 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Solar Energy Tips

While it will be a lot quieter than the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the excitement and energy levels will be high as the third annual Solar Grand Prix hits the pavement of El Dorado Park on Saturday, April 21.

Fifth District Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske is sponsoring the event, which will see 57 teams from 18 schools, totaling 228 students, put their hand-made solar energy cars to the test and race against their fellow peers.

“The Solar Grand Prix is a wonderful opportunity to see the application of solar energy,” Schipske said. “It also shows the enthusiasm of these students who get to see their projects in action and take pride in the contraptions they put together.”

The idea for the competition stemmed from Schipske’s Solar Task Force, which worked on solar energy polices for the city. The group decided that it was time to begin to educate area students on the benefits of this energy source, according to Schipske.

A letter was sent out to students at all of the schools in Long Beach, including private and charter schools last fall, to promote the events and encourage students to form teams of four for the competition.

In January, Schipke conducted a mandatory meeting for the teams, where she gave them tips, secrets, a solar panel car kit and a generator to help speed things up.

“The other day, I was in the grocery store, and a parent came up to me because they wanted to say how much fun their son had working on their car,” Schipske added. “They’ve really connected with it.”

Newcomb Academy seventh grader Shayna Weldon said she is anxiously waiting to see how her team’s solar panel car does in the race. Weldon and her father and coach Rick, have been working diligently every Sunday to prepare for Saturday’s competition.

“This is my first time in the Solar Grand Prix,” Weldon said. “I chose to participate because I love building and designing things. It’s been really fun to work with my friends and school, and now I can understand how the sun can make a vehicle move.”

Rick, who has experience coaching sports for his children, said he was glad to help his daughter and her friends build their car.

“I know they’re looking forward to it,” he said. “We went on the website to see what we needed to do, and then every week we made sure we accomplished goals, like the design and gear ratios and what it would look like. I think they’ll have a great time on Saturday.”

The competition will peg student teams against each other in their various age groups. Middle and high school teams will not be racing each other, Schipske said.

“We get more middle school teams, but they don’t race high schoolers,” she added. “We also want to encourage younger kids to come see it and encourage them to participate in the future.”

Students will be able to see their creative car designs vie for awards in categories such as “Fastest Car,” “Best Overall Design,” “Most Innovative Design” and “Best Green Design.”

Sponsors of the event include Signal Hill Petroleum, P2S Engineering, Port of Long Beach, Long Beach Fire Fighters Association, Ameco Solar, Segue to Solar, Waste Management, Solagex, Dr. Walter, Keesal Young and Logan, and the Long Beach Department of Parks, Recreation and Marine. The United Brotherhood of Carpenters, Union Local 630, constructed the two racetracks.

Engines in the Solar Grand Prix will start warming up at 8:30 a.m. until 3 p.m., on the corner of Willow and Studebaker, near El Dorado Park.

For more information and race times, visit www. longbeach.gov/district5/solargrandprix.asp.

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