solar car

Pedal to the metal

The Walnut Solar Car Team isn’t any ordinary school team一as an off-campus team, it aims to teach kids the fields of engineering and mathematics, while allowing them to apply what they’ve learned. Members use math, science and physics to work with the motors and panels. Merging its skill and knowledge, the team currently building two solar cars to compete with in Texas this year.

The car has a set of batteries and a motor that allows it to move. The motor gets the power from the battery, which charges from solar panels that connect to power trackers. Power trackers are boxes that convert the energy from solar power to energy the team needs to run the cars. The power trackers help them get the most amount of energy from the solar panels, then it stores the energy in the batteries.

“It’s really fun to put the car together and to see the progress throughout the year. It feels great at the end of the year to know that you built this fully functional car with your friends, and then you get to race it against other teams all over the country. We get to learn a lot of mechanical and electrical engineering, but this is non profit so we also have to fundraiser our money. We learn communications and business and also get to apply knowledge from school like physics, trig, [and more],” junior Mitchell Lee said.

With motors and batteries that cost up to $70,000, the team raises money to afford the cost. Sponsorships by solar companies such as Solar Max and Vertex Telecom contribute its money to the team. The team has earned money through hosting booths at the Walnut Family Festival and the Diamond Bar Birthday Party, an event that celebrates the innovative friendship between cities, organizations and schools.

“Every week we present to a potential sponsor and anytime anyone has an interest in our club or wants to donate, then we hold a presentation for them. The hardest part about sponsors is if people are willing to donate to us. We generally try to look for companies that specialize in the same area of expertise as us, such as solar panel companies or battery distributors. Once our presentations are given, I feel like the companies will be able to truly understand what they are contributing to our team,” Lee says.

Many problems occur while building the car, such as tube breakage, battery problems and engine malfunction. At competitions, these problems can cause the team a lost chance for the prize. The team has to build its car exactly the way the competition host, Dr. Lehman Marks, wants it, while following a tight schedule. If the competitors don’t reach the requirements, then they would have to take time off the race to fix its problems.

Competitions for solar car races are annual. The team will race this year in two divisions — advanced and electric car ㄧ in Fortworth, Texas. For the advanced division, competitors race with cars with solar panels on top, and for the electric car division, they’ll race with chargeable cars.

This year the race is at the Texas Motor Speedway, which is a Nascar track. The team will be competing with other solar teams from states across the country, such as New York, Oregon and Florida.

“Our team hasn’t really looked at the competition yet because we’re just focusing on building the cars, but I’d say that we’re doing really well. We haven’t looked at the other competitors cars, so we have to keep working hard. Even though the competition isn’t until late July, I’m pretty confident that we can still win the sweepstakes,” freshman Kelly Huang said.

By Albert Law, Staff writer

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