EnergyWhiz Olympics on May 3 at the Florida Solar Energy Center

Cocoa, Fla. – Hundreds of students from more than 60 schools across Florida will participate in the sixth-annual EnergyWhiz Olympics at the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) in Cocoa. This year’s event will be held on Saturday, May 3, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.

The EnergyWhiz Olympics, sponsored by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, highlights the science and engineering skills of middle school and high school students as they participate in activities related to the real-world issue of energy.

“This event provides students with a great opportunity to develop and show off their engineering skills and their knowledge of emerging energy concepts,” said Susan Schleith, project manager for the EnergyWhiz Olympics. “Each year we have more schools participating, and it’s great to know that students are taking a real interest in alternative energy.”

The public is invited to watch these students compete in four different competitions throughout the day: the Junior Solar Sprint, the Hydrogen Sprint, Energy Innovations, and the second portion of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Science Bowl for middle school students in the Southeast region – the Hands-On-Hydrogen demonstration.

This year, elementary school students will also participate in the event by designing, building and demonstrating solar-powered boats.

After the solar boat demonstration, judging for Energy Innovations begins. This program is a real-world design competition developed to provide a full-scale solar electric design and marketing challenge for middle and high school students. Each team must design and construct a product or artistic work that is fully powered by photovoltaics (PV), also called solar electricity. PV panels for this competition are provided by BP. The teams must also create marketing pieces, such as brochures, fliers, or posters, to accompany their products. Winners will be chosen based on product ingenuity, design and marketing presentation.

Following Energy Innovations is the Junior Solar Sprint, a hands-on competition for middle school students in sixth through eighth grade that challenges them to use scientific know-how, creative thinking, experimentation and teamwork. Working in teams, the students design, build and race model-sized, solar-powered vehicles. Winners in this competition are chosen based on vehicle design, quality, innovation, and vehicle speed.

The next race is the Hydrogen Sprint, a similar competition for high school students in grades 9-12. This competition also allows students to design, build and race model-sized cars, but these vehicles are powered by hydrogen fuel cells. The Hydrogen Sprint was developed to expose students to hydrogen’s potential as an alternative fuel source and also give graduates of the Junior Solar Sprint program an opportunity to continue designing and building alternative-fueled vehicles. For this competition, teams are required to give a 10-minute presentation on any aspect of hydrogen they learned about while creating their vehicle.

Finally, the eight finalist teams from the academic portion of the regional DOE National Science Bowl, held previously on April 5, will participate in the Hands-On Hydrogen competition. Each team is required to design, build and demonstrate a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle to qualify to compete at the National Science Bowl. The top academic team, with their vehicle crossing the finish line, will represent Florida at the national competition on June 22-24, in Golden, Colo.

Below is the day’s complete schedule:

8 a.m.: Check-in, race vehicle inspections, Energy Innovations set-up

9 a.m.: Welcoming presentation

9:30 a.m.: Technical judging for all race vehicles, Hydrogen Sprint presentations, Energy Innovations displayed, race vehicles displayed

11 a.m.: Solar boat demonstration

11:30 a.m.: Energy Innovations judging – Middle School

12 p.m.: Energy Innovations judging – High School, Junior Solar Sprint race begins

1 p.m.: Hydrogen Sprint race begins

2 p.m.: Hands-On-Hydrogen race begins

3:30 p.m.: Awards

The Florida Solar Energy Center is located at 1679 Clearlake Road in Cocoa, next to the University of Central Florida Brevard campus. For more information regarding the event, please contact Susan Schleith at (321) 638-1017, or Penny Hall at (321) 638-1018.

The Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC), a research institute of the University of Central Florida, is the largest and most active state-supported renewable energy and efficiency institute in the United States. Created by the Florida Legislature in 1975, FSEC’s mission is to research energy technologies that enhance Florida’s and the nation’s economy and environment, and to educate the public, students and practitioners on the results of the research. Working in alternative fuels, hydrogen and fuel cells, photovoltaics, solar thermal technologies, high performance buildings, and education areas, FSEC’s 140-member staff helps provide Florida with a future of energy independence and environmental sustainability. FSEC is also responsible for testing and certification of solar systems sold in the state of Florida. For more information about FSEC, please visit www.floridaenergycenter.org, or send your questions to info@fsec.ucf.edu.

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