By LIBBY CLUETT
Fourteen high school teams met at the starting line Tuesday, near the Texas Motor Speedway, to start the Solar Car Challenge – rolling across the western part of the United States solely using solar power.
Right about lunchtime, the cars and teams of an estimated 150 hungry teens, along with many adults, too, rolled into Mineral Wells, helping boost the economy.
According to Race Technical Director Chris Jones, the teams come from all over the nation.
“We have teams from New York to California and all over, in between,” he said.
Jones explained that the challenge is just for high school teams, noting, “Everything that you see here is built from the ground up and designed by high school students. So, these are future engineers and scientists.”
But Tuesday wasn’t the first day on the road. Jones said the teams, with about 10-15 high school members each, had to check in their vehicles.
“Before this they’ve already been through two full days of what we call scrutineering, which is qualifying, where they’ve had every inch of their car poured over,” said Jones.
“They’ve had to go tweak things and fix things and discovered there were things they thought they could get away with that maybe they couldn’t quite do.
“So they’ve already been working quite hard in the wonderful warm weather we’re having to get to this point,” he explained.
For the challenge, students have to drive their solar-powered vehicles to Los Angeles over eight days, fueled by the July sun.
While Jones said hundreds of teams express interest each year, about 50 build a car and about 20 register. Those who make it “are already the top 10 percent in the entire nation,” he said, adding, “All these teams have pulled it together and made it, so I’m very proud this year.”