BULLARD — It’s clear that Bullard High School students are working hard to succeed in a solar car race this summer.
Donning “Solar Team” T-shirts, group members rally together during school Wednesday to continue work on their race vehicle. Some students are quick to point out the car’s frame, which is made using carbon fiber materials. Students later take the frame down the hallway to show the vice principal their progress.
“They won the last 11 years until 2013. They’re not going to win in 2013,” he quipped, adding that the overall goal is to have a well-known solar car team in Bullard.
This year’s nine-day, cross-country race begins in July at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth and ends in Los Angeles.
The group of about 15 students will be on the road eight days and have one layover day for media and news conferences in El Paso.
Senior Cullen Hippler, 18, said the group will put its solar car in a trailer to take to Dallas/Fort Worth and from there will “pull it out and take off.”
During the race, there are four mandatory stops per day, and drivers must take turns for safety reasons, Gwartney said. The race starts at 8 or 9 a.m. each day and ends at 5 p.m.
Gwartney said it’s not a typical race in that the first one there is not the winner. Instead, the team that drives the most miles wins, he said, but if two teams drive the same amount of miles, the fastest team wins.
Students started design work in August but didn’t get construction materials until the fall.
Gwartney said students put about 100 combined man hours into the project every day. Students even work on weekends.
“It took time to build these joints,” Hippler said Wednesday as he stood by the car’s frame. “In this car right now, (there are) 150 joints in here.”
Once completed, the vehicle will be 1.6 meters tall, 1.8 meters wide. Cullen said it is 15 feet long now but will be 16 feet long in the end.
Senior Scott Lowrie, 17, said he has enjoyed the process.
“I’d like to be an engineer, and this is showing me what it’s like,” he said. “We’re all kind of working together.”
Bullard High School teacher Stacy Gwartney, who has been overseeing the process, said she lets the students learn from their mistakes along the way.
Students on the solar team started reading the list of rules and making plans on the first day of school, she said, and the first month was spent sending out fundraising and sponsorship letters.
Senior Kayla Sims, 17, has worked on fundraising, along with other parts of the project. She said one effort is Super Science Saturdays, where the students host children one Saturday per month and teach them about science. One of the most recent fundraisers occurred Wednesday at Sadler’s restaurant in Jacksonville.
As of Thursday, the Bullard Engineering Department had raised about $40,000 to benefit solar car and robotics competitions, Hippler said.
They were still in need of about $20,000 as of Thursday.
In the meantime, Ms. Gwartney said the work is beneficial for the students.
“Being a yearlong project, you can give the kids a project in class and they finish it in a day or two or in a week, but this is a project that really requires them to learn to work together teamwork. It covers a lot of different areas as far as subjects,” including math, chemistry and physics, she said.
Hippler said it’s now about letting the public know about their efforts.
“We just need awareness. We’re still short on the cost to complete the trip. We’re representing (this area), and we want it to be a vehicle that everybody’s proud of,” he said.
For more information, visit the Bullard High School Solar Team Facebook page.