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Solar-Powered Model Car Competition Fuels STEM Education

A national online competition challenges students in grades 4-8 to build the fastest, best designed, and most visually stunning solar vehicle they can imagine.

Funded by the Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP) and overseen by the Technology Student Association (TSA), the Junior Solar Sprint (JSS) program is designed to help students learn valuable hands-on skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and give them an opportunity to compete at local and regional events, or enter an online competition that pits their car against competitors from across the nation.

The model cars must be built to certain specifications. For instance, the materials used to construct the model car must cost less than $50, and  the sun's light is the only energy source that can be used to power the vehicle. Students are also encouraged to get creative with decorating the car's body.

The JSS program's local and regional events, which are offered through schools, youth groups, and organizations, help students develop teamwork and problem solving skills and learn about solar power as an alternative fuel through student and teacher training workshops and races.
For the online competition, students must submit details about their cars, including project documentation, design drawings, photos, videos, and time trial results.

The cars will be judged on design quality, creativity, originality, quality of construction, design documentation, and the best time trials. Awards will be given to the top five rated entries for each grade level. Participants have until March 15, 2013 to register for the completion, and submission materials are due by April 30, 2013. 

The JSS Web site includes additional resources for teachers, mentors, and other community members interested in helping kids design, build, and race model solar cars. For more information, visit jrsolarsprint.org

"The Junior Solar Sprint program aligns with the Army's goal of having a national impact on STEM education. JSS challenges students to use scientific know-how, creative thinking, experimentation and teamwork," said Louie Lopez, chief of education and STEM outreach at United States Army Research, Development, and  Engineering Command, in a prepared statement.

Visit usaeop.com for more information about the United States Army Educational Outreach Program.

About the Author

Sharleen Nelson is a freelance journalist based in Springfield, Oregon. She can be reached at snelson858@comcast.net.

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