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National Renewable Energy Laboratory
STEM Knowledge Puts Middle Schoolers in Driver's Seat

May 30, 2017

The cars raced down the straightaway, unless they didn't. Forward momentum can be a problem with solar- and battery-powered model cars designed and built by middle school students.

"There's a lot to getting these cars to actually move and go," said science and math teacher Catherine Tuell between races at the Middle School Electric Car Competitions, held on May 20 at the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) campus in Golden. "There's a lot of problem solving and persistence. That's the main thing."

Tuell, who teaches at The Logan School in Denver, accompanied six of her students to the event. In all, 53 teams from 18 Colorado middle schools gathered outside under a cloudless sky for a day at the races. The cars that raced were products of teamwork, creative thinking, and an understanding of scientific principles. Although each school started with the same basic car components, there was a lot of room for innovative approaches and experimentation.

A series of time trials and double eliminations narrowed the number of competitors, leaving 16 teams in the solar and lithium-ion battery categories racing along a 20-meter neoprene rubber track for the championship. In between races, the students could run their cars on test tracks or refine their designs and gear ratios. Hot-glue guns, soldering irons, and coping saws were among the tools available for making improvements or repairs. Getting to this point, ready to face rival teams, required "a lot of planning," said Jeremy Anderson, a math teacher at Resurrection Christian Middle School in Loveland and coach to its two race teams.

Click here to read the full press release.

For more information :

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

1617 Cole Blvd
Golden, Colorado
United States, 80401-3305


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