CAS High School Students Win State Championship in the Racing the Sun Solar Go Kart Challenge

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Kneeling--Mr. Oh! and Mr. Dolifka; Left to Right--Kurtis Daniels, Brennan Townsend, Cynthia Ruvalcaba, Makenzi Cushman, Brandy Skattebo, Jeff Bradford, Sara Sizemore & Andrew Sizemore.
Kneeling–Mr. Oh! and Mr. Dolifka; Left to Right–Kurtis Daniels, Brennan Townsend, Cynthia Ruvalcaba, Makenzi Cushman, Brandy Skattebo, Jeff Bradford, Sara Sizemore & Andrew Sizemore

On Saturday, April 30th, high school students from the Center for Academic (CAS) in Sierra Vista brought home the state championship trophy for this year’s Racing the Sun (RTS) solar go kart races. Not only did they win the championship based on most overall points, they also won in every race they participated.  The program is run by the UofA Tech Park and involved 20 different arcing karts from 14 schools from around the state.

The students, under the direction of teachers Jeff (Mr. Oh!) Ofstedahl and Dave Dolifka, designed and built two solar-powered go karts this year and raced in two different divisions: Standard Kart and Modified Kart. In both divisions, they also won first place for fastest lap and also in the endurance race – which is completing the most laps in 20 minutes. The races were held at the Muscleman Honda Circuit track south of Tucson.

Team Member, Sara S., races around the track in one of the CAS team's go karts
Team Member, Sara S., races around the track in one of the CAS team’s solar go karts

Racing the Sun is a solar go-kart competition for high school students organized and hosted by Tech Parks Arizona, headquartered in Tucson, Arizona. High school participants from throughout the state fundraise, design, and build go-karts powered by solar photovoltaics. The purpose of the program is to help high school students develop STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) skills. The program runs concurrent with the school year. Throughout the building process, students utilize problem solving skills, apply STEM concepts in the real world, and gain experience applying solar power technology. In addition, students develop teamwork and entrepreneurial skills. During the program participants are mentored by industry and academic experts.

This was CAS’s second year competing in RTS events. Last year, they designed, built and raced one go kart and came in third place in the Standard Kart division.

CAS Solar Go Kart Team poses with their trophies
CAS Solar Go Kart Team poses with their trophies

“I’m so proud of the kids!” beamed Ofstedahl. “They worked so hard all year and their efforts really paid off.” The students start working on their karts, business plans, and fundraising plans at the beginning of the school year,” Ofstedahl explained. They also have to meet RTS deadlines throughout the year to include turning in their annual project plan, mechanical plans and electrical diagrams. In the process, he said, they are learning about how solar power works, how to wire electronic components, how to weld and build a chassis, as well as all the safety issues that go with the processes. The Solar Go Kart Team is an after school club which meets for three hours every Friday.

CAS Makenzi Driving
Neck and neck with another driver, CAS Team Member, Makenzi C., races to the finish line

Student Quotes:

“I learned that simplicity is the best way to go about things.” – Kurtis Daniels, Senior

“It took what we learned in the classroom and applied it to real life.” – Brandy Skattebo, Senior

“As Engineering Students we learned how to use our knowledge from the classroom and turn it into skills to help with the Go-Cart.” – Brandy Skattebo, Senior

“There were many new things many of us would never have experienced; Such as welding, soldering, electrical circuits, and how solar energy works.” – Brandy Skattebo, Senior

“I learned how solar panels work and mechanical engineering works into this matter.” – Cynthia Ruvalcaba, Freshman

“I learned how valuable other’s opinions and ideas can be, no matter how small.” – Brennan Townsend, Junior and Project Manager

Student Members of the Team:

Jeff Bradford, Junior
Makenzi Cushman, Freshman
Kurtis Daniels, Senior
Cynthia Ruvalcaba, Freshman
Andrew Sizemore, Freshman
Sara Sizemore, Senior
Brady Skattebo, Senior
Brennan Townsend, Junior

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