Sunshine state students show off solar smarts

Solar-powered cars lined up at the judging table.

Hundreds of students from across Florida came together earlier this month for the Florida Solar Energy Center’s (FSEC) annual EnergyWhiz competition. EnergyWhiz tests participants’ skills in science, technology, engineering, art and math. The competition is open to students from grade school through high school.

The EnergyWhiz competition consists of regional meets, or “expos,” held around the state, culminating to the final competition at FSEC. This year, regional expos took place at Florida Atlantic University in South Florida, reThink Energy in Tallahassee, and a local school system in Brandon.

I was on hand to judge the Junior Solar Sprint cars. Each team competing builds a model size solar-powered car. The cars are judged on their craftsmanship, innovation, and technology. The cars also compete in a 20-meter track race in a sun-fueled standoff! The innovation, teamwork, and research that goes into each car is astounding.

The sprint cars were one of many events that put solar to good use. Other events included a cooking competition using a solar-powered oven (click here for past winning recipes) and an energy innovations competition that had teams build and market solar-powered devices.

This event is enormous amounts of fun while allowing participants to explore renewable energy and learn by doing. Solar energy isn’t just for saving money on your electric bill, it is a highly demonstrative and fun way to learn!

FSEC, a research arm of University of Central Florida, is a multifaceted asset to our state. Beyond their research into energy efficiency, solar energy and electric vehicles, they provide a wealth of free instructional materials for teachers. Many students that learn about renewable energy through FSEC’s curricula continue on to compete in EnergyWhiz.

Interested in learning more about EnergyWhiz? Visit energyresearch.ucf.edu/education/k-12/energywhiz/. Solar United Neighbors also has a Scouts Patch Program for the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. Learn more at: solarunitedneighbors.org/girlscouts.

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