Bend-area high school students in ‘critical time’ as they prepare for the national solar car competition

(Update: Added video, comments from the team coach and students)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – A group of high school students from the Bend area have worked tirelessly to prepare their solar-powered car for the national stage, and it’s almost show time.

The car, in preparation for four years, prepares to hit the track at Texas Motor Speedway in Dallas for the Solar car challenge.

the Oregon Solar Car Team built the car from scratch, with the help of their trainer, Thomas Stueve.

“There is no kit, there is no kit for solar energy,” Stueve joked Wednesday.

Stueve helped bring the auto team to central Oregon in 2007 as a teacher at Trinity Lutheran High School and competed in the national race four times.

He said the problem-solving skills that students learn from building a car are something they cannot practice in a classroom.

“It doesn’t work, so how do I make it work?” Stueve said, referring to a student asking questions. “It really stimulates learning in a really intense way, and so this week and the week we’re in Texas will generally be the most learning that students will do throughout the year. Because they owe it. “

The team’s last solar-powered car was last used in 2019.

Stueve said the new version had a team-designed roll cage, a slimmer cockpit, an additional wheel, and was even lighter and more powerful.

The competition features 24 solar teams from across the country.

There were as many as 64 registered at a time, but Stueve said that with COVID and other factors, the number of teams has dropped.

The competition takes place over a four-day period comprising eight hours of racing per day.

The goal is for each car to go as fast and as many laps as possible.

Stueve said their car used a bicycle motor, similar to the electric pub-mobiles used in Bend.

He knows other teams will have better engines, able to reach faster speeds, but said they only have a tight budget, created from corporate donations and fundraisers and of individuals.

The team has 12 students from several high schools in the Bend area, including four old enough to drive during the race.

EJ Kent is not a pilot but said the teamwork made it a great experience.

“Because you know, you have all of your friends here supporting you, and you can work together to build this car, which is great,” Kent said.

Kent and Grade 10 Kai Elgie helped weld the car’s roll cage and found new passion with the team.

“Mechanical side, definitely,” Elgie said. “I would say it’s a lot more convenient.”

The team know that a lot can go wrong this week and during the race.

While they all want to win and have a successful car, Stueve says watching the students grow is what keeps him coming back.

“Just this learning process that continues, it’s just spectacular, and that’s why I keep investing my summers in it, year after year – because it’s so, so rewarding,” Stueve said. with a smile.

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