Florida Students Compete With Energy Solutions

Cocoa, Fla. – With the constant rise of gas prices, energy is on everyone’s mind these days, including our students’. On Saturday, May 3, hundreds of students from more than 40 schools all over Florida competed in the sixth-annual EnergyWhizOlympics at the University of Central Florida’s Florida Solar Energy Center in Cocoa. Here they put their knowledge and skills to work toward finding solutions to our nation’s energy challenges.

This alternative energy competition, 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 real-world energy issues by racing solar and hydrogen-powered model cars.

“We were so impressed with the level of competition this year,” said Susan Schleith, project manager for the EnergyWhiz Olympics. “Students are beginning to take a real interest in alternative energy, which is promising for our future energy independence.”

There were four main competitions during Saturday’s event: 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 – which was sponsored by Bright House Networks.

The Energy Innovations program, a relatively new, real-world design competition, was developed to provide a full-scale solar electric design and marketing challenge for middle and high school students. Each participating team designed and constructed a product or artistic work fully powered by photovoltaics (PV), also called solar electricity. PV panels for this competition were provided by BP. The teams also created marketing pieces, such as brochures, fliers, and posters, to accompany their products.

One of the most popular events each year is the Junior Solar Sprint (JSS), where students design, construct and race solar-powered vehicles. This hands-on competition for middle school students in sixth through eighth grade encourages students to use scientific know-how, creative thinking, experimentation and teamwork. The double elimination race was briefly interrupted by light rain showers, which allowed time for teams participating in the race to tweak their vehicles before returning to the track. One of the fastest cars sped to victory down the 20-meter track in an impressive 5.6 seconds.

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

The Hands-On-Hydrogen competition was the last event of the day. Only the eight finalist teams from the academic portion of the regional DOE National Science Bowl, held previously on April 5, participated in this event. Each team was 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.

Lincoln Middle School’s team, from Gainesville, was ranked first out of the eight teams in the academic portion of the Science Bowl, but their vehicle did not complete the race. Second-ranked team Trinity Preparatory School, from Winter Springs, had the winning vehicle in the race, but did not have enough team members present at the event to qualify for nationals. The third-ranked Archimedean Middle

Conservatory team, from Miami, had all team members present, and their vehicle, the “Spartan Mobile”, crossed the finish line. The team from Archimedean Middle Conservatory, made up entirely of sixth-grade students, will travel to the national competition as the youngest team ever to represent Florida at this level, with two of its members being only 10 years old.

Below is the complete list of winners and their project names:

Junior Solar Sprint Winners

Sixth grade race:

1st Place: Tuskawilla Montessori Academy, Sponge Bob

2nd Place: Gulf Coast Academy of Science and Technology, Flamingos

3rd Place: Lewis Carroll Elementary, The Green Hornet

Seventh grade race:

1st Place: Kanapaha Middle School, Solar Sevens

2nd Place: McLane Middle School, Viking 3

3rd Place: Lockhart Middle School, TBFT

Eighth grade race:

1st Place: McLane Middle School, Viking 2

2nd Place: Tuskawilla Montessori Academy, Ironman

3rd Place: McLane Middle School, Viking 1

Design:

1st Place: Louis Carroll Elementary, The Green Hornet

2nd Place: Tuskawilla Montessori Academy, Sponge Bob

3rd Place: Ronald McNair Magnet School, Solar Eclipse

Innovative:

1st Place: T.E. Weightman Middle School, Solar Flare

2nd Place: Lincoln Middle School, XOXO

3rd Place: Odyssey Middle School, Destiny

Hydrogen Sprint Winners

Design:

1st Place: Lakewood High School, Off Duty

Presentation:

1st Place: Lakewood High School, Catastrophe

Race:

1st Place: Lakewood High School, Team Hydrogen

Overall:

1st Lakewood High School, Off Duty

2nd Lakewood High School, Team Hydrogen

3rd Lakewood High School, Catastrophe

Hands on Hydrogen Winners

Race:

1st Place: Trinity Preparatory School, Knight Rider

2nd Place: Andrew Jackson Middle School, Action Jackson

3rd Place: Archimedean Middle Conservatory, The Spartan Mobile

Design:

1st Place: Edgewood Jr./Sr. High School, Hydrobeast

2nd Place: Archimedean Middle Conservatory, The Spartan Mobile

3rd Place: Trinity Preparatory School, Knight Rider

Energy Innovations Winners

High School:

1st Place: Bayside High School, Portable Water Filtering Station

2nd Place: South Plantation High School, Solar Triton

3rd Place: Edgewood Jr./Sr. High School, Solar I

Middle School:

1st Place: Gulf Coast Academy of Science and Technology, Solar Streamers

2nd Place: Tuskawilla Montessori Academy, Solar Kiddie Cars

In upcoming years, project managers for the EnergyWhiz Olympics hope to expand thecompetition by developing a program for elementary students to design, build and race solar-powered boats. This year, model solar-powered boats were on display for students and observers to explore their different designs and how they work.

The EnergyWhiz Olympics is coordinated by staff at the Florida Solar Energy Center, but it could not be a successful event without the time and effort of the volunteers involved. Event volunteers included engineers from NASA, the United Space Alliance (USA), Canaveral Council of Technical Societies, Northrop Grumman, and the Society of Automotive Engineers. Other volunteers included representatives from the University of Central Florida, Brevard Community College, Bright House Networks, the National Energy Foundation, and Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

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.

**For photos from the event please visit http://media.fsec.ucf.edu/photos/2274-EnergyWhiz-Olympics-2008/index.html

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