COCOA, June 5, 2017—Nearly 50 schools across Florida—from Key West and Tallahassee—participated in this year’s EnergyWhiz competition last month at the University of Central Florida’s Florida Solar Energy Center.
More than 115 teams, which included nearly 500 students, prepared their projects for competition: model-sized solar cars for the Junior Solar Sprint (JSS), solar ovens for the Cook-off, full-scale photovoltaic panels for Energy Innovations, energy-efficient animal homes for the Critter Comfort Cottage competition, and go-cart-sized electric cars for the Electrathon.
In the longest running event, JSS, cars underwent inspection, design judging, time-trials, and new this year, team interviews. “Questions from judges may sometimes be intimidating, but interviews give students the opportunity to shine when they’ve put their heart and soul into a project,” said Guytri Still, JSS lead design judge and former middle school science teacher.
COCOA, Fla., June 1, 2017—Contractors installing photovoltaic (solar electric) systems in Florida can now obtain permit-ready documents in a matter of minutes, thanks to a new online express solar certification system developed by the University of Central Florida’s Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC)®.
The database-driven, web-based Solar Certification Portal will process inputs from professional engineers and contractors licensed to install photovoltaic (PV) systems in Florida, and produce an electrical three-line schematic and supporting equipment documentation—which complies with prevailing codes and standards—certified by FSEC and ready for use in the building permit process.
In an effort to encourage licensed contractor and engineer feedback, a two-week introductory period will allow use of the new express system free of charge. Beginning June 16, each system certification will only cost $150, a $100 reduction over the current manual system certification fee.
Manual PV system design certification is a labor-intensive and time-consuming process. The new express PV system certification process is expected to dramatically reduce the time and costs associated with permitting rooftop PV systems in Florida.
This new express online certification system results from a three-year program sponsored by Broward County with funding from the US Department of Energy’s SunShot program. FSEC was one of several team members of the Go SOLAR Florida initiative that was established to develop policies and procedures to standardize solar energy permitting and remove institutional barriers across the state of Florida, thereby reducing soft costs associated with rooftop PV system installation.
COCOA, FL–Elementary, middle and high school students—from Florida’s Panhandle to the Keys—will show off their solar cars, cookers and inventions during EnergyWhiz on Saturday, May 13th.
EnergyWhiz is a day-long event that showcases sustainable and renewable energy-focused products with real-world purpose that are designed, built and demonstrated by teams of students. Each project category requires students to share what they have learned with their peers, the public and industry professionals who also serve as project evaluators. Creative thinking, scientific know-how and effective communication skills all come into play at EnergyWhiz.
The 15th annual event is held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Cocoa campus of the University of Central Florida (UCF) and Eastern Florida State College, at UCF’s Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC), 1679 Clearlake Road. The event is free and open to the public.
DJ Chill Will—the world’s first solar-powered DJ and also a full-time, middle school environmental science teacher—will be emceeing the event in the morning. He will also be demonstrating photovoltaic equipment components and functions, teaching
scientific concepts behind photovoltaic technology, and educating on the applicability of using renewable energy to reduce environmental impacts. Food trucks and a showcase of electric vehicles will also be at EnergyWhiz.
Competitions will include: Junior Solar Sprint, Energy Innovations, Solar Energy Cook-off, and the Electrathon.
The Junior Solar Sprint is a competition that challenges elementary and middle-school students to design, build and race model solar cars. Awards are given based on vehicle design, quality of craftsmanship, innovation and vehicle speed.
The Solar Energy Cook-off challenges students in grades 4 through 12 to design and build solar cookers and cook a recipe of their own creation using the power of the sun. In Top Chef-style, each dish will be judged by a panel of experts based on taste, ingredients, presentation and creativity.
The Energy Innovations program is a full-scale solar electric design and marketing challenge for middle and high school students. Each participating team designs and constructs a product or artistic work powered by photovoltaics, also called solar electric cells. Teams also create marketing pieces—such as brochures, fliers, and posters—to accompany their products.
The Critter Comfort Cottage competition challenges students in grades 4 through 12 to demonstrate their understanding of energy efficient and eco-friendly building design for a pet of their choosing.
The Electrathon is a competition for high school students and older. The go-cart-type vehicles, powered by an electric motor and batteries, must be skillfully designed, built and driven to maximize distance traveled within a given time limit.
This year’s EnergyWhiz sponsors include: Florida Power & Light Company, Duke Energy, Publix Super Market Charities, Airport Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, American Muscle Car Museum, LifeStyle Homes, Solar-Ray, Inc., and Smart Electric Power Alliance.
“The success of EnergyWhiz is in large part due to our volunteers and sponsors,” said Susan Schleith, K-12 Education Director at FSEC. “Whether you can spare a couple of hours or the whole day, you can help make EnergyWhiz a continued success.” Volunteers and sponsors can sign-up at: http://www.fsec.ucf.edu/go/energywhiz.
A University of Central Florida-led team will receive $1.1 million to develop new manufacturing processes using a specialized tool that will bring the U.S. a step closer to achieving its goal of affordable photovoltaic (solar) energy.
The project, led by Kris Davis, a research engineer at UCF’s Florida Solar Energy Center, will largely take place at the university’s International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research in Osceola County where the tool will be among the first to be installed when the building opens in spring 2017.
Making the research manufacturable was critical to getting the federal funding and having the state-of-the-art facility in Osceola County where process engineers will be on staff to manage the equipment was also imperative, Davis said.
“This is the future,” he said of the process his team will use to ultimately produce thousands of solar cells an hour in and without the costly and cumbersome vacuum-based deposition processes typically used to convert silicon wafers into solar cells. Read more
Everyone is impacted by the current high price of gasoline. President Obama gets criticized because the public thinks he can actually control the price, Big oil gets called before Congress because it gets substantial subsidies from taxpayers. And we, the citizens, pay the highest gas prices we have ever paid in the face of one of the country’s most severe economic downturns.
But there is hope for the Sunshine State, as every cloud has a silver lining.
For the past half dozen years or so, the automotive industry has become pretty serious about producing electric cars that work. The new Chevy Volt (Motor Trend’s Car of the Year) and the all-electric Nissan Leaf are good examples – and they are real game changers.
But what does this have to do with the cost of photovoltaics and gasoline?
The eighth-annual EnergyWhiz Olympics is day-long event showcasing student projects in alternative energy. Activities include the Junior Solar Sprint, Hydrogen Sprint, Energy Innovations and the Bright House Solar Energy Cook-off. The general public is invited to observe all activities.
The Junior Solar Sprint is a competition that challenges middle school students to design, build and race model solar cars. Awards are given based on vehicle design, quality of craftsmanship, innovation and vehicle speed.
The Hydrogen Sprint is a high school competition that provides opportunities for students to explore hydrogen fuel cell power with a hands-on design component and a presentation.
The Energy Innovations program is a full-scale solar electric design and marketing challenge for middle and high school students. Each participating team designs and constructs a product or artistic work fully powered by photovoltaics (PV), also called solar electric cells. Teams also create marketing pieces – such as brochures, fliers, and posters – to accompany their products.
The Bright House Solar Energy Cook-off challenges students, in grades 4th – 8th, to design and build solar cookers, and to also cook a recipe of their own creation using the power of the sun. In Top Chef-style, each dish will be judged by a panel of experts based on taste, ingredients and creativity.
These hands-on renewable energy competitions – for elementary, middle and high school students – expose students to alternative energy fuel sources, and encourage scientific know-how, creative thinking, experimentation and teamwork.
More than 650 elementary, middle, and high school Florida students – from Tallahassee to Miami and everywhere in between – will participate in the EnergyWhiz Olympics.
Saturday, May 1 starting at 9 a.m.
9:00 a.m. Welcome – Auditorium, Dr. James Fenton, Director, FSEC
9:30 a.m. Technical Judging Begins –
Junior Solar Sprint
Energy InnovationsDisplays Open to Public
Solar Energy Cook-Off – Design Judging
Solar Cookers – Displays Open to Public
10:30 a.m. Energy InnovationsJudging
11:30 a.m. Junior Solar SprintRace Begins (Track Area 1)
12 noon Hydrogen Sprint Race Begins (Track Area 2)
2:00 p.m. Solar Energy Cook-off –Recipe Judging (Auditorium)
3:30 p.m. Awards Ceremony (Auditorium)
Florida Solar Energy Center, 1679 Clearlake Road, Cocoa, FL 32922
For more information on these exciting educational events, visit
Bob Reedy, manager of Transmission Line Design with the Georgia Transmission Corporation, has been named director of FSEC’s Photovoltaics Division.
If you’ve followed FSEC activities over the years, you’ve certainly read a great deal about Bob’s work with the center, especially during his 12 years as Director of the Engineering and Operations Group and manager of Wholesale and Renewable Energy Businesses at Lakeland Department of Electric and Water Utilities. At Lakeland Electric, he worked closely with FSEC on projects ranging from setting up a utility-sponsored solar water heating program to his leadership of Lakeland Electric’s development with FSEC of the super-efficient home that began the national Zero Energy Home effort.
This work has given him extensive experience in the utility industry and in the field of distributed power systems, with a specialty in energy marketing, financing and business planning.
Bob brings more than 20 years experience in renewable energy to his new position, including administrative positions with The Energy Authority in Jacksonville, Turbec Americas, and Georgia Transmission Corp. He received a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering degree and a Master of Science degree from Auburn and an M.B.A. from Florida Southern. Bob began his new job at FSEC on January 12.