COCOA, May 09, 2013— With clouds in the sky and all eyes on the weather, more than 600 elementary, middle and high school students were energized on Saturday, May 4th. Student teams—from Key West to as far away as North Carolina—gathered at UCF’s Florida Solar Energy Center on Saturday to demonstrate their Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) skills by competing at the 11th annual EnergyWhiz Olympics.
The daylong event started out cloudy and posed challenges to the solar-dependent competitions, especially the Bright House Solar Energy Cook-off and the Junior Solar Sprint (solar-powered model car) teams. Although weather conditions were less than ideal, the sun managed to peek through the clouds and provide just enough energy for the teams to get through the solar competitions. And although Energy Innovations, a full-scale solar electric design and marketing challenge, depend on the sun for their complete product demonstration, teams also created marketing pieces—such as brochures, fliers, and posters—to promote their product.
Fortunately, the rain held off until later in the day, allowing the Battery Assisted Transport (B.A.T.) Mobile, model-size electric cars, and the Electrathon, go-cart size electric cars, to compete without incident.
The Hydrogen Challenge, located indoors, attracted a large audience as students demonstrated their understanding of energy transfers through a custom-built Rube Goldberg-type apparatus. “The phenomenally creative and intricate contraptions were a challenge to judge,” said Eric Hoepnner, former middle school science teacher. Built with a hydrogen fuel cell in one of the steps, the timed machines were judged on accuracy, innovation, complexity, technical sophistication, and their use of fuel cell technology. Nearly doubling in size from last year, this event is expected to have even more participants next year. “There’s a huge coolness factor with this event,” Hoeppner added.
These hands-on renewable energy competitions expose students to alternative energy fuel sources and encourage scientific know-how, creative thinking, experimentation and teamwork.
Susan Schleith, energy education director at FSEC says, “As our event continues to grow each year, my goal is to establish regional events around the state, with the ultimate competition taking place at FSEC. This would allow even more students to participate, and create a broadened awareness statewide. Tight school budgets and travel costs provide challenges that some student teams just can’t overcome.”