Polytechnic School Solar Car Team Returns to Pasadena After Solar Car Race Called Off, Captures 2nd Place
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Polytechnic School Solar Car Team Returns to Pasadena After Solar Car Race Called Off, Captures 2nd Place

Jun 11, 2023

Members of the Polytechnic School solar car team have arrived home to Pasadena after the 2023 High School Solar Car Challenge was abruptly canceled Wednesday, July 19, after only three days of racing — but not empty-handed.

The crew captured second place in the Classic Division race after traveling 200.1 miles, beating out two other contenders but trailing the Division leader, a team from Okemos, Michigan, by just 27.4 miles.

The Poly team left for Texas on July 11 to compete in the 30th Annual Solar Car Challenge hosted by Oncor and Lockheed Martin. The Challenge was to run for eight days through July 23 and end in Palmdale. It started on Sunday, July 16, but was canceled on Day 3.

“The challenge was officially canceled on Wednesday, and the team drove back from El Paso and they arrived in Pasadena on Thursday,” Jack Prater, math department chair at Polytechnic and the team’s adviser, said. “So they basically made it halfway through the race, through the course. El Paso was a halfway point in the race and we ended up traveling 200 miles and ended up second in our division (the Classic division).”

The Solar Car Challenge Classic Division was one of eight divisions. Of eight teams in the division, only five made it to El Paso. Polytechnic’s team was the second to arrive, and was awarded a trophy for their feat.

“We drove a total of over 200 miles, and placed in the top half of the 20 teams registered across all other divisions (advanced classic, advanced, and electric solar-powered vehicle),” the team posted on its blog. “The team is disappointed that the race will not go on after all of the hard work we did over the past two years for this, but we understand that for everyone’s safety the race cannot go on.”

The team also celebrated their short-lived participation during an event on Sunday in Pasadena.

Daniel Zheng, one of the team members, said they will be aiming next year to focus on a more composite approach, lessening the weight of their vehicle and increasing the actual speed and productivity.

“We’re looking to move up also to the advanced class division within two years and batteries, which have been recommended to us by certain persons on our team to be lithium phosphate batteries,” he said.

Another team member, Reese Goldstein, said the team plans to compete in two years for another long-distance race.

“Next year will be a track race, and we just think that the long-distance race is a little bit more exciting,” Goldstein said. “You get a little bit more experience than the track race and it also gives us two years instead of one to develop a new car that would be improving upon our old car.”

Talking about lessons learned in the experience, Zheng said they’ve learned a lot about teamwork and how each member should function according to the position he’s assigned to. They’ve also agreed to work together to get some form on funding for the Engineering Group’s projects, especially the solar car.

“Number one, we’re not sure we can acquire funding for three consecutive years of racing,” Zheng said. “And number two is just the aspect that we really want to focus in two years for our race cross-country, because we find that to be a lot more exciting, more productive, and we learn more from that.”

Other members of the Polytechnic Solar Car Team include Team Captain Aria Wang, Kai Herman, Jeremy Hsieh, Jonah Goldstein, Aikam Singh, Sabrina Zhang, Ennio Sim, William Kim and Julian Harrison.

Their solar car is called The Mason Mobile, which is 13.5 feet long, 5.18 feet wide, and 4.95 feet high. Without the driver, the solar car weighs 645 pounds.

The car is equipped with four Power Star PS12-80UPS batteries, each weighing 50.71 pounds and with a capacity of 80 ampere-hours. Four 350-watt solar panels are installed. The car is powered by a 3-kilowatt Golden Motors Brushless DC air cooling motor with a power output of four horsepower.

Established in 1993, the Solar Car Challenge aims to help motivate students in science and engineering and to increase alternative energy awareness. The Challenge teaches high school students around the world how to build roadworthy solar cars.

The sponsors’ communication team said the decision to cancel the challenge came in response to the positive COVID-19 test results of 14 staff members. Concerned for the health and safety of participants, the organizers decided to end the event prematurely.

For Polytechnic School, the Solar Car Challenge is the Engineering Club’s first project, uniting students with different interests and creating a space to learn about engineering, physics, and business through hands-on experiences.

To learn more about Polytechnic School’s Engineering Club, visit their website, https://polysolarcar.wixsite.com/engineering.

For more information about the Solar Car Challenge, visit www.solarcarchallenge.org.

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