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Tech Parks Arizona held the eighth annual Racing the Sun, a high school solar go-kart competition, this past Saturday, April 27th, 2019, at Tucson’s Musselman Honda Circuit. The competition challenged high school students to design, build, and test solar go-karts using basic engineering and science concepts over the course of a year. The Arizona community united to support 135 students and teachers. There were approximately 375 people in attendance including students, teachers, mentors, volunteers, families, friends, news crews and VIP guests such as SARSEF, Arizona Tech Council, Tech Parks Board Members, and event sponsors.

Racing the Sun is a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) project that high school students worked on over the course of the school year. The competition is designed to capture the interest of high school students using solar energy as the organizing technology. This unique program encourages students to pursue technical careers in STEM fields.

Students must meet numerous milestones throughout the course of a year and learn through a series of workshops and events focused on topics such as: solar panels, how to incorporate automotive geometry, how to design a safe and functional electrical system, how to use gear ratios, safety considerations and much more. While participating in the program, students build confidence in their skill sets and also learn team building, time management and leadership.

Twelve high schools with seventeen go-karts participated in Race Day. Tucson schools included: Basis Tucson North, Salpointe Catholic and Sonoran Science Academy-DM. Phoenix schools included: Desert Vista, Imagine Prep Surprise, Independence, Shadow Mountain, Shadow Ridge and Red Mountain. Schools from other areas of Arizona included: Center for Academic Success from Sierra Vista, Rio Rico High School and Many Farms from the Navajo Nation in northeast Arizona.

Racing the Sun provides an experience students typically don’t have in the classroom. By working with industry mentors and college students, participants learn not only from their teachers, but also field experts who provide guidance and demonstrate how to build a solar go-kart.

A number of awards were given away for participation, innovation, verbal presentation, speed, endurance and efficiency.

Verbal Presentation: Sonoran Science Academy

Innovation Award: Sonoran Science Academy

Standard Class Go-Karts

Speed: Salpointe Catholic

Endurance: Salpointe Catholic

Efficiency: Salpointe Catholic

Maker Class Go-Karts

Speed: Shadow Ridge

Endurance: Shadow Ridge

Efficiency: Desert Vista

Modified Class Go-Karts

Efficiency: Center for Academic Success

Grand Champion: Desert Vista

University of Arizona College of Engineering students also participated in Racing the Sun. Tech Parks Arizona teamed up with the UA’s Transportation Research Institute and sponsored a team of UA seniors in the College of Engineering and challenged them to create an autonomous self-driving solar-powered go-kart. The senior design team demonstrated their capstone project at the event showing high school students and the crowd a working prototype of a full autonomous go-kart that runs on solar-power.

Racing the Sun is sponsored by Tucson Electric Power, Arizona Public Service, Arizona Science Center, Arizona SciTech Festival, Arizona Technology Council Foundation, Arizona STEM, CAID, Diversified Print Solutions, Musselman Honda Circuit, University of Arizona College of Engineering, Global Solar/Hanergy, Bay4 Energy, P3Solar and Rosendin Electric.

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