The popular EnergyWhiz Olympics, featuring daylong events for hundreds of students from around the state, will be held at the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) on Saturday, May 6, from 9 a.m. until about 4 p.m. The center is at 1679 Clearlake Road in Cocoa.
Each year, hundreds of students from elementary through high school take part in the competitions that feature alternative fuels in the Junior Solar Sprint, Middle School Science Bowl Hands-on Hydrogen Demonstration and High School Hydrogen Sprint. Susan Schleith, who directs these activities for FSEC, noted that there are 49 teams signed up for this year’s Junior Solar Sprint, eight returning teams for the Middle School Science Bowl Hands-on Hydrogen competition and 10 teams for the High School Hydrogen Sprint.
The first event, starting at 9 a.m., is the Junior Solar Sprint, a hands-on competition for middle school students in grades 6 through 8. Students work in teams to design, build and race model-size, solar-powered vehicles. Awards are given based on vehicle design, quality of craftsmanship, innovation and vehicle speed. Students begin getting their cars checked in and tested in the morning, and the races start at noon.
The Middle School Science Bowl Hands-On Hydrogen competition is the second part of the Southeast Regional Science Bowl. The top eight academic teams that scored highest in the earlier academic bowl held on April 1 were required to design and build a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle to qualify for the National Science Bowl Competition. Those eight teams will demonstrate the performance of their vehicles at the EnergyWhiz Olympics. The top academic team with a qualifying vehicle will represent the Southeast in the National Competition to be held June 21-24 in Denver, Colo.
The High School Hydrogen Sprint is a hands-on competition for students in grades 9 through 12 and was created to expose students to the potential of hydrogen as an alternative fuel source and also as a follow-up program for those graduates of the Junior Solar Sprint program who wanted to continue designing and building alternative fuel vehicles. Students design, build and race hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. In addition to the hands-on portion of the competition, teams are required to give a 10-minute presentation on some aspect of hydrogen research.
“The EnergyWhiz Olympics is a day for students to show off their engineering skills and their knowledge of solar and hydrogen technology,” said Schleith. “If we expect to become more energy independent as a nation, then we need to not only invest in renewable energy technologies, but also in our students. After all, these young people are our future decision-makers.”
You can get more information on these activities at www.fsec.ucf.edu/ed/k12_std_act/ewhizolympics.htm. There is no charge for attending the Olympics and cheering on these students.
The Florida Solar Energy Center, a research institute of the University of Central Florida, is the largest and most active state-supported energy research center in the country. Current research activities include solar water and pool heating, solar electric and distributed generation systems, energy-efficient buildings, alternative transportation systems, hydrogen fuel, fuel cells and other energy areas. For more information about the center, visit www.fsec.ucf.edu or call the FSEC Public Affairs Office at (321) 638-1015.