There are three categories with some limitations, namely with size and dimension. Jones said the classic division has restrictions on the solar cells and motors, while the open division is for student who want to have cars that are more extreme and expensive. In the advanced division, he said students can play around more with battery technology and monocoque molding around car “and really push the extremes on it.”
“We have teams in all three categories,” he said. “There are a few teams in this competition that could give the colleges a run for their money.”
Jones said the event was first organized, and continues to be organized by Dr. Lehman Marks, who also serves as race director.
“This is the 20th anniversary from when Dr. Marks started this whole teaching process and this event back in 1993,” Jones noted.
Through informal studies, by polling teachers years after the challenge, Jones said they have found that the Solar Car Challenge participants “are much more likely to go into engineering and sciences, [and] they more readily get accepted into some of the more prestigious colleges.”
Now a volunteer for the annual event, Jones said he started 17 years ago as a competitor – a high school sophomore – “floundering, with no idea” what he wanted to do.
He said he found this event event, which got him ultimately into engineering. After receiving a degree in mechanical engineering he worked with the National Aeronautic and Space Administration’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for four years and now works for defense contractor Raytheon, where he said he continues to work on NASA programs.
“But none of that would have happened without this event,” he said.
“And I’m not the only one that’s like that. That’s why I, and a few others that were part of that original team, still come back and volunteer as staff. We see what it does for kids.”