Model Solar-Car Competition: Fueling future scientists and engineers

By Eleanor TaylorApril 30, 2010

ARGONNE, Ill. — On Saturday, May 8, Chicago-area middle school students will race solar-powered model cars at Case New Holland (CNH) in Burr Ridge, Ill., as part of the Chicago Regional Science Bowl, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Argonne National Laboratory. The competition is designed to inspire students to apply science and engineering principles to real-world applications. 

"This event helps students see first-hand how science, creativity and collaboration work together," said Harold Myron, director of Argonne’s Division of Educational Programs. "It's a fun and exciting way to introduce students to principles like momentum, friction and power generation together with an understanding of renewable energy and the environment.”

Each team designs and builds a working, solar-powered model car using identical electrical motors and solar cells. The solar cells convert sunlight into electricity to drive the motor.  The cars race in heats along a 20-meter course. Prizes will be awarded for the fastest cars, best design and best working knowledge of the principles for using solar cells to power model vehicles.

“This challenge integrates different forms of learning to excite and motivate students,” said Argonne’s Lou Harnisch, who coordinated the event. “It enhances teamwork, experimentation and problem-solving skills as the teams learn by testing and tweaking their designs.”

The competition requires students to use applied science and engineering skills to meet technical challenges similar to those that scientists and engineers face every day. The design competition kicks off just after 9:00 a.m., and the race begins at approximately 11:00 a.m.   

More information about the event is available at Argonne's Division of Educational Programs.

This year's participants included:

  • Altgeld Elementary School, Chicago, IL
  • Byrne Elementary School, Chicago, IL
  • Daniel Wright Junior High School, Lincolnshire, IL
  • George Washington Middle School, Lyons, IL
  • Jerling Junior High School, Orland Park, IL
  • Kingswood Academy, Darien, IL
  • Lakeview Junior High School, Downers Grove, IL
  • Maple Middle School, Northbrook, IL
  • Troy Middle School, Plainfield, IL
  • Stanley Clark School, South Bend, IN
  • Yorkville Middle School, Yorkville, IL

The Model Solar Car Competition is also sponsored by the Chicago Section of the Society of Automotive Engineers and CNH

CNH  is the power behind leading agricultural and construction equipment brands of the Case and New Holland brand families. The company's Burr Ridge headquarters is located at the northwest corner of the Stevenson Expressway (I-55) and County Line Road.