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Florida high School Climbs Solar racing ladder
Three years ago, Dan Myers needed
a senior project for an enviromental
design course at South Plantation
High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Myers
wanted to be an engineer, so his teacher Allan
Phipps showed him photos of college-built
solar race cars.
“We can do this!” Myers said. He put
together a team of about a dozen classmates.
Using funds and parts donated by local businesses, the team built Solar Knight I and
entered it in the 2007 Dell-Winston School
Solar Race, a nine-day run from Brown Rock,
Texas, to Newburgh, N. Y. They finished dead
last, but they finished, with an average speed
of 14.73 mph, 4 mph off the winning pace in their class.
For 2008, the team designed a brand new car. Solar Knight II is built on
an ultralight aircraft fuselage salvaged after a hurricane. It sports a 1.2-kilo-
watt (k W) Sanyo photovoltaic (PV) array feeding lead-acid batteries to
drive a 60-volt Perm motor. In four days of racing on the 1.5-mile Texas
Motor Speedway, the team finished a creditable third in a field of 12 cars.
A Classic-class solar car can accelerate to
around 50 mph, but as the batteries deplete,
speed erodes to a steady state of around 20
mph, at which speed the PV panels can keep
up with the motor draw. Initial acceleration
has a strong effect on average speed through
each three-hour heat, and to improve acceleration, most of the miles were driven by the
team’s lightest member. Phipps notes that
Solar Knight’s tempered-glass PV modules
weigh almost 200 pounds (90 kilograms)
more than the carbon-fiber panels obtained
South Plantation High’s solar race crew numbers 16 for its
by the Houston and Winston teams.
2009 effort. Main sponsors for the event are Sea World,
For the race this July, the team hopes
Broward County Motor Sports and the Energy Store.
to get lighter panels. They’ll also mount
new wheels with harder, narrower tires and ceramic bearings. Solar
Knight I is on loan to a neighboring high school as a starter kit. The new
team will build its own car for its second season and pass the starter
car along. With three schools on the waiting list, South Plantation
hopes to build up a Florida interscholastic solar racing league with 25
teams by 2015. — seth masia