Student engineers design and race battery-powered cars in this year’s Electric Car Competition

By Justin H.S. BreauxApril 3, 2014

ARGONNE, Ill. – The equation "force equals mass times acceleration" means a lot more to 7th graders when they can use this math to build something cool.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory partners with CNH Industrial to showcase the engineering talents of Chicago-area middle school students in this year’s Electric Car Competition held at CNH Industrial in Burr Ridge on April 5.

The competition, part of the Chicago Regional Science Bowl in the Annual U.S. Department of Energy National Science Bowl®, is designed to inspire students to apply science and engineering principles to real-world applications similar to those professional scientists face every day. Teams are made up of four to five middle school students ages 11–14.

"What is truly is amazing to see the students who participated in previous competitions actually trying to coach the kids in this year’s team. They are confident in what they’re doing and have matured in their scientific knowledge and ability.” - Sophia Capelli, Daniel Wright Middle School Science Bowl coach

Each team receives a car kit from Argonne, including a motor, battery and lights. The students’ challenge is to design and fabricate the model race car using teamwork, experimentation and problem-solving skills.

Cars race in heats along a 20-meter course, loaded down with a nearly two-pound container of salt. The competition gives students engineering opportunities dealing with momentum, friction and power generation, allowing them to build battery-powered cars that are fast and can carry a heavy load.

“The competition gets the kids thinking about things like transmissions, gear ratio and maximizing speed to create sufficient torque to carry a certain amount of weight,” says Sophia Capelli, Science Bowl Coach with Daniel Wright Middle School. “What is truly is amazing to see the students who participated in previous competitions actually trying to coach the kids in this year’s team. They are confident in what they’re doing and have matured in their scientific knowledge and ability.”

Prizes will be awarded for the fastest cars, best design and best working knowledge of the principles for developing a battery-powered model vehicle. For the race, first-place contestants receive a trophy and $500, and second- and third-place contestants receive a trophy and $250. The winning team of the design evaluation will receive a trophy and $500, and second- through sixth-place teams receive a trophy and $250 each.

The design competition begins at 8:30 a.m., and racing begins at 11:30 a.m.  

More information about the event is available online.

This year's participants include:

  • Brooks Middle School
  • Colin Powell Middle School
  • Crone Middle School
  • Daniel Wright Middle School
  • Eisenhower Junior High School
  • Frank C. Whiteley
  • Franklin Fine Arts Center
  • Jerling Junior High
  • Kipling Elementary School
  • Lindop Elementary School
  • Maple Middle School
  • Oak Prairie School
  • Rickover Junior High School
  • Roosevelt Middle School
  • Scullen Middle School
  • Shabbona Middle School
  • Westview Hills Middle  School

The Model Battery Car Competition is sponsored by CNH Industrial. Through its people and brands, CNH Industrial delivers power, technology and innovation to farmers, builders and drivers all around the world. The company comprises well-known brands in North America: Case IH and New Holland Agriculture for tractors and agricultural machinery; Case and New Holland Construction for earth moving equipment; and FPT Industrial for engines and transmissions.  For more information, please visit www.cnhindustrial.com.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

The Department of Energy (DOE) created the National Science Bowl® in 1991 to encourage students to excel in mathematics and science and to pursue careers in these fields. More than 225,000 students have participated in the National Science Bowl throughout its 23-year history. It is one of the nation's largest science competitions.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science manages the National Science Bowl®, and sponsors the National Science Bowl® finals competition. More information about these events is available on the National Science Bowl® website (http://science.energy.gov/wdts/nsb/).