Pirates-built solar cars hit raceway

Staff Report

Custom-built solar panel cars were tested Feb. 28 by Black River Middle School students at the Junior Solar Sprint competition.

A mix of fifth- through eighth-graders tried out their cars on 20-meter tracks, vying for the fastest time.

Black River has incorporated the Junior Solar Sprint into all fifth- and sixth-grade science classes. Part of a $49,000 Army Educational Outreach Program grant will allow one Black River team to participate for the first time ever in the national competition this June in Atlanta.

Students “were extremely engaged and excited to build these cars and see them work,” said sixth-grade science teacher Sonya Infantino. “Although the students have heard about solar energy, the opportunity to see it in action brought added excitement to the education process.”

Along with fifth-grade teachers Kenna Kelso and Michelle Yocum, Infantino encouraged her students to construct their solar vehicles in a way that showcased their creativity and flexibility in design. Given a direct current motor, a solar panel for outdoor use, and a battery pack for indoors, the teams spent months researching sprint cars and testing their designs.

Fifth-graders Tommy Rolinc and Brodie Park, who worked on their car for about a month, were chosen to represent Black River in the national JSS competition after competing in an in-house competition between all fifth and sixth-grade Black River teams in November. The pair ended up placing second in the tri-school practice competition out of 31 total teams.

Project-based learning helps build enthusiasm for science, technology, engineering, and math, said superintendent Chris Clark.

Staff Report