Energized Students Infectious at Statewide Renewable Energy Competition

COCOA, June 5, 2017—Nearly 50 schools across Florida—from Key West and Tallahassee—participated in this year’s EnergyWhiz competition last month at the University of Central Florida’s Florida Solar Energy Center.

More than 115 teams, which included nearly 500 students, prepared their projects for competition: model-sized solar cars for the Junior Solar Sprint (JSS), solar ovens for the Cook-off, full-scale photovoltaic panels for Energy Innovations, energy-efficient animal homes for the Critter Comfort Cottage competition, and go-cart-sized electric cars for the Electrathon.

In the longest running event, JSS, cars underwent inspection, design judging, time-trials, and new this year, team interviews. “Questions from judges may sometimes be intimidating, but interviews give students the opportunity to shine when they’ve put their heart and soul into a project,” said Guytri Still, JSS lead design judge and former middle school science teacher.

Long table with students on one side, inspectors on other side. JSS car being weighed in.
Junior Solar Sprint cars are inspected and weighed. Credit: Selina Black

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Permit-ready Solar System Certification Now Available Within Minutes

Close up view of photovoltaic panels
Express Photovoltaic System Certification Now Offered

COCOA, Fla., June 1, 2017—Contractors installing photovoltaic (solar electric) systems in Florida can now obtain permit-ready documents in a matter of minutes, thanks to a new online express solar certification system developed by the University of Central Florida’s Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC)®.

The database-driven, web-based Solar Certification Portal will process inputs from professional engineers and contractors licensed to install photovoltaic (PV) systems in Florida, and produce an electrical three-line schematic and supporting equipment documentation—which complies with prevailing codes and standards—certified by FSEC and ready for use in the building permit process.

In an effort to encourage licensed contractor and engineer feedback, a two-week introductory period will allow use of the new express system free of charge. Beginning June 16, each system certification will only cost $150, a $100 reduction over the current manual system certification fee.

Manual PV system design certification is a labor-intensive and time-consuming process. The new express PV system certification process is expected to dramatically reduce the time and costs associated with permitting rooftop PV systems in Florida.

This new express online certification system results from a three-year program sponsored by Broward County with funding from the US Department of Energy’s SunShot program. FSEC was one of several team members of the Go SOLAR Florida initiative that was established to develop policies and procedures to standardize solar energy permitting and remove institutional barriers across the state of Florida, thereby reducing soft costs associated with rooftop PV system installation.

Access the Solar Certification Portal at https://scp.fsec.ucf.edu/. For questions, contact pvsystem@fsec.ucf.edu or 321-638-1457.

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PR17-04

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Solar Cars, Cookers and Inventions Compete at EnergyWhiz on May 13

By Sherri Shields
April 25, 2017

COCOA, FL–Elementary, middle and high school students—from Florida’s Panhandle to the Keys—will show off their solar cars, cookers and inventions during EnergyWhiz on Saturday, May 13th.

EnergyWhiz logo
EnergyWhiz – a forum for students to demonstrate their science, technology, engineering, art, and math capabilities through hands-on, energy-focused projects and activities.

EnergyWhiz is a day-long event that showcases sustainable and renewable energy-focused products with real-world purpose that are designed, built and demonstrated by teams of students. Each project category requires students to share what they have learned with their peers, the public and industry professionals who also serve as project evaluators. Creative thinking, scientific know-how and effective communication skills all come into play at EnergyWhiz.

The 15th annual event is held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Cocoa campus of the University of Central Florida (UCF) and Eastern Florida State College, at UCF’s Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC), 1679 Clearlake Road. The event is free and open to the public.

DJ Chill Will—the world’s first solar-powered DJ and also a full-time, middle school environmental science teacher—will be emceeing the event in the morning. He will also be demonstrating photovoltaic equipment components and functions, teaching
scientific concepts behind photovoltaic technology, and educating on the applicability of using renewable energy to reduce environmental impacts. Food trucks and a showcase of electric vehicles will also be at EnergyWhiz.

Competitions will include: Junior Solar Sprint, Energy Innovations, Solar Energy Cook-off, and the Electrathon.

  • The Junior Solar Sprint is a competition that challenges elementary and middle-school students to design, build and race model solar cars. Awards are given based on vehicle design, quality of craftsmanship, innovation and vehicle speed.

    Female student and male student at the starting line of the Junior Solar Sprint yellow track, racing their model-size solar cars. Female student's car is slightly ahead of male's car.
    Students design, build and race solar-powered cars in the Junior Solar Sprint. Credit: Sherri Shields
  • The Solar Energy Cook-off challenges students in grades 4 through 12 to design and build solar cookers and cook a recipe of their own creation using the power of the sun.  In Top Chef-style, each dish will be judged by a panel of experts based on taste, ingredients, presentation and creativity.

    One male student positions the solar cooker while the other male student stands behind the cooker, stands behind the cooker, facing the sun and uses his hand to determine the path of the sun in relationship to the cooker.
    Tracking the sun to position the solar cooker is crucial in keeping an optimal oven temperature for cooking. Credit: Cheryl Carson
  • The Energy Innovations program is a full-scale solar electric design and marketing challenge for middle and high school students. Each participating team designs and constructs a product or artistic work powered by photovoltaics, also called solar electric cells. Teams also create marketing pieces—such as brochures, fliers, and posters—to accompany their products.

    Solar panels arranged on a pyramid designed of PVC tubing that sits inside a child-sized swimming pool with water in it.
    Energy Innovations challenges students to design, engineer and market full-scale, solar-powered devices that have real-world applicability. Credit: Liza Robles
  • The Critter Comfort Cottage competition challenges students in grades 4 through 12 to demonstrate their understanding of energy efficient and eco-friendly building design for a pet of their choosing.

    Students design energy-efficient and eco-friendly homes for pets in the Critter Comfort Cottage. Credit: Cheryl Carson
  • The Electrathon is a competition for high school students and older. The go-cart-type vehicles, powered by an electric motor and batteries, must be skillfully designed, built and driven to maximize distance traveled within a given time limit.

    Six electric go-cart-style cars starting the race in a parking lot.
    Go-cart-type electric vehicles are skillfully designed, built, and driven to maximize distance traveled with a time limit. Credit: Alik Smith

This year’s EnergyWhiz sponsors include: Florida Power & Light Company, Duke Energy, Publix Super Market Charities,  Airport Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, American Muscle Car Museum, LifeStyle Homes, Solar-Ray, Inc., and Smart Electric Power Alliance.

“The success of EnergyWhiz is in large part due to our volunteers and sponsors,” said Susan Schleith, K-12 Education Director at FSEC. “Whether you can spare a couple of hours or the whole day, you can help make EnergyWhiz a continued success.” Volunteers and sponsors can sign-up at: http://www.fsec.ucf.edu/go/energywhiz.

For more information about EnergyWhiz, visit http://www.fsec.ucf.edu/go/energywhiz, watch a video about the EnergyWhiz at http://vimeo.com/9522310, or contact Susan Schleith, K-12 Education Director, at susan@fsec.ucf.edu or Sherri Shields, Communications Director, at sherri@fsec.ucf.edu.

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PR17-02

 

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Lincoln Middle School Bowls Over the Competition – Again!

By Susan Schleith

Middle school science bowl teams from across Florida met at the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC), a research institute of the University of Central Florida (UCF), in Cocoa, Fla. on Saturday, March 4, 2017, to compete in a high stakes science competition. The Space Coast Science Education Alliance (SCSEA) Middle School Science Bowl is one of 50 competitions nationwide that yields a regional winning team that advances to the National Middle School Science Bowl competition.

2017 Regional Champions, National Science Bowl
Abraham Lincoln Middle School Team I members from Gainesville, Fla. earn the National Science Bowl 2017 Regional Champions title. Pictured left to right are Avery Bernstein, Amy Cao, Bill Zhao, Sarthak Roy, Atharva Pathak, and Coach Sheryl Buchanan.

Twenty teams worked through numerous rounds of questions until eight Florida teams were remaining. The finalist teams then competed in double elimination rounds responding to questions in the following categories: General Science, Earth and Space, Life Science, Energy, Math, and Physical Science.

Those eight finalist teams included: two teams from Abraham Lincoln Middle from Gainesville, two teams from American Heritage School in Plantation, Central Middle from West Melbourne, DeLaura Middle from Satellite Beach, Falcon Cove from Weston, and Westglades Middle from Parkland.

American Heritage Team Black offered strong competition for the Lincoln Middle Team I. Ultimately, Lincoln Middle Team I’s extensive knowledge, experience, and speed on the buzzer paid off with the win.
1st – Abraham Lincoln Middle School Team I, Gainesville
2nd – American Heritage Team Black, Plantation
3rd – Abraham Lincoln Middle School Team II, Gainesville

“The students were impressive, not only in their science and mathematics knowledge and skills, but also in how well they conducted themselves.  All were gracious, whether they won or lost.  It gives me great hope for the future!” said Jennifer Thompson, Secretary for the Space Coast Science Education Alliance.

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