EnergyWhiz Olympics to be Held at FSEC on Saturday May 12

More than 80 school teams featuring hundreds of students from around the state will participate in the fifth-annual EnergyWhiz Olympics again this year at the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC).

The 2007 event will be held Saturday, May 12, from 9 a.m. to about 4 p.m.  The center is located on the campus of Brevard Community College/UCF at 1679 Clearlake Road in Cocoa.

Each year, students from elementary through high school take part in the competitions that feature alternative fuels in the Junior Solar Sprint, Middle School Science Bowl Hands-on Hydrogen demonstration, High School Hydrogen Sprint and Energy Innovations competition.

“There are 57 teams signed up for this year’s Junior Solar Sprint, eight returning teams for the Middle School Science Bowl Hands-on Hydrogen competition, 11 teams for the High School Hydrogen Sprint and seven teams for the new Energy Innovations competition,” said Susan Schleith, who directs these activities for FSEC. “It’s going to be a very exciting, busy day for the students.”

The first event, starting at 9 a.m., is check-in and testing for the Junior Solar Sprint, a hands-on competition for middle school students in grades 6-8.  The students have worked in teams to design and build model-size, solar-powered vehicles that they’ll race in head-to-head competition against other teams starting at noon.  Awards will be given based on vehicle design, quality of craftsmanship, innovation and vehicle speed.

The Middle School Science Bowl Hands-On Hydrogen competition is the second part of the Southeast Regional Science Bowl.  The top eight academic teams that scored highest in the earlier academic bowl held on April 1 were required to design and build a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle to qualify for the National Science Bowl competition.  Those eight teams will demonstrate the performance of their vehicles at the EnergyWhiz Olympics that begin at noon.  The top academic team with a qualifying vehicle will represent the Southeast in the National Competition to be held June 21-24 in Denver, Colo.

The High School Hydrogen Sprint is a hands-on competition for students in grades 9-12 and was created to expose students to the potential of hydrogen as an alternative fuel source.  It’s also as a follow-up program for those graduates of the Junior Solar Sprint program who wanted to continue designing and building alternative fuel vehicles.    Students designed and built the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles they’ll race starting at 1 p.m.  In addition to the hands-on portion of the competition, teams are required to give a 10-minute performance type lesson on some aspect of hydrogen research.

Energy Innovations is a real-world design competition.  It was developed to provide a full-scale solar electric design and marketing challenge for middle and high school students.  The program is a collaborative effort between BP, the Florida Solar Energy Research and Education Foundation (FlaSEREF) and the Florida Solar Energy Center.  BP donated more than 15 PV arrays to FlaSEREF, which collaborated with FSEC to distribute the systems to schools throughout Florida as part of the EnergyWhiz program.

“The EnergyWhiz Olympics is a day for students to show off their engineering skills and their knowledge of solar and hydrogen technology,” said Schleith.  “If we expect to become more energy-independent as a nation, then we need to not only invest in renewable energy technologies, but also in our students.  After all, these young people are our future decision-makers!”

You can get more information on these activities at www.fsec.ucf.edu/ed/activit/ewhizolympics.htm. There is no charge for attending the  Olympics and cheering on these students.

The Florida Solar Energy Center, a research institute of the University of Central Florida, is the largest and most active state-supported energy research center in the country. Current research activities include solar water and pool heating, solar electric and distributed generation systems, energy-efficient buildings, alternative transportation systems, hydrogen fuel, fuel cells and other energy areas. For more information about the center, visit www.fsec.ucf.edu or call the FSEC Public Affairs Office at (321) 638-1015.

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