Northwest ISD Navigator Magazine October 2017 - Page 9

Jeff Taylor, who serves as the faculty sponsor of the school’s solar car team, said the process of making the vehicle is worth it for the unique experience alone. “It offers an alternative that most high schools aren’t able to provide,” he said. “There are about 25 or so high schools from across the country taking part in this event, and about 400 high schools are planning on taking part at the beginning of each year. Being one of the few to take part is an accomplishment itself. How many people can say they built a solar-powered vehicle in high school?” On top of the engineering requirements, students also have to learn a variety of skills in other areas, Mr. Taylor added. They have to seek out community donations and sponsorships, as funding for e ach year’s car team costs roughly $20,000 to $30,000. Students have to gain marketing and personal skills to solicit donations and sponsorships in the community, and they have to be financial stewards of the team’s funds. Byron Nelson has seen record-setting success in the Solar Car Challenge, winning its division each year from 2013 to 2016. The school’s 2017 vehicle fell just short of competing to defend its title, barely missing inspection. Despite the setback, Mr. Taylor said the program still succeeded as an educational tool. “The biggest amount of our time is spent building the car, and students involved in this team learn a lot about engineering,” he said. “They learn how to use tools and power equipment, but the biggest thing they learn is problem-solving skills. We’re taking parts from go-karts, golf carts, racing karts, mopeds – we take parts from almost anything to build a single solar-powered vehicle. Being able to take two parts that aren’t naturally supposed to go together and get them to work takes a lot of engineering.” Senior team member Adelaide Villasana said the program has helped her think of how to tackle challenges she expects will have benefits for engineering projects in the future, as solar power becomes more prevalent. “We can’t just take a motor from any vehicle and put it in, because we have to use solar energy to power it,” she explained. “I’d like to study engineering in college, so this has been an incredibly helpful experience. It’s a learning experience for sure, but it’s really fun at the same time.” 9