BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The first annual Hillside Intermediate School solar car races was the culmination of a long-term project with sixth grade E-science classes at the school and at Eisenhower Intermediate - and an Eisenhower team ran away with the race, remaining undefeated through the games.
Students in teams of two to five competed with solar cars they had designed themselves to be the fastest, the best engineered and other honors.
"There were six classes district-wide involved with the project," said Hillside science teacher Katrina Macht. "This project is an excellent way to connect textbook learning and sometimes difficult abstract scientific concepts to real-world practices."
"It is also a valuable problem-solving experience for the students," she added.
At Hillside, Macht said, she and teacher Sarah Wolf introduced the project in late winter after completing a unit on motion. Much of the construction was completed in school, she said, and students met after school to finish the projects.
To put the car together, Macht said, students were given a Ziploc bag with a motor, gears, axles, a battery pack, eye-hooks, tires and a solar panel.
"The only items they were required to use were the motor and solar panel," she said.
The materials, Macht said, were provided by TransOptions, which hosts the Junior Solar Sprints every year. Macht said they usually participate in the sprints against other school teams, but couldn't this year because of the PARCC testing schedule.
The Junior Solar Sprints is a STEM competition that engages students in designing, building and racing solar-powered model cars. Students participate in divisional races for the fastest, most innovative and best-engineered vehicles.
"That's why we hosted our own district races for the first time this year," she said, adding that it was hosted by Kristen Tomasicchio, of TransOptions. "Next year, we look forward to again participating in the TransOptions races, and, if it works out, to also host a race at Hillside."
Students at Hillside raced their cars, and continued in competition until there was only one left. Aside from the race, they were judged individually on engineering, use of recycled materials and craftsmanship, and awards were given out in those categories.
The names of the winners for engineering were The Grazing Menace in first place, Viper 7 in second place and Milky Way in third place.
For craftsmanship, Let's Taco was in first place, Drago in second place and Milky Way in third place.
For upcycled materials, Chipotle Finally Delivers was in first place, Trash 2 Dash in second place and Justice Mobile in third place.
Finally, for student choice, Drago won first place, Cheetah won second place and Chick-o-bile won third place.