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

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

Hands-on Learning Takes Center Stage at CAS Douglas Middle School

CAS, Douglas, Science, Egg drop, STEM

Fifth grader proudly displays egg that survived the drop.

Students in grades 5-8 who attend the Douglas campus of CAS Middle School have recently excelled in exploratory learning and educational trips. Mrs. Alvarado’s and Mrs. Peraza’s fifth grade classes conducted an elasticity experiment with eggs constructing differing surrounds which would help the egg survive a drop off a 20-foot structure. Students then had the opportunity to test their theories with an outdoor egg drop.

6th graders pose beside their research posters.

6th graders pose beside their research posters.

The sixth grade classes also continued with project-based learning in their research projects. Students researched famous inventors such as   Alexander Graham Bell and George Eastman Kodak. Later, they recreated famous inventions so that the students could see what they looked like. All of the sixth grade students in Mrs. Robles’ science classes have been working hard on this project for the past two weeks, and projects are now on display for all students to see.

7th graders enjoy their tour of Pima Air & Space Museum

7th graders enjoy their tour of Pima Air & Space Museum

Finally, the students in Mrs. Gonzalez’s and Ms. Paredes’ 7th grade science class went on a field trip to the Pima Air and Space Museum.  The students learned about the evolution of flight and were able to walk around and look at various types of airplanes.  They saw planes that have been in various wars, as well as space.  They also toured to the Airplane Boneyard viewing hundreds of planes that were previously engaged in military efforts around the globe.

CAS Students Win 1st and 3rd Place in County Youth & Engineering Science Fair

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Winner Macayla Fetting displays her third place ribbon in front of her project board.

CAS is excited to announce that two CAS students have placed in the county’s annual Youth and Engineering Science Fair (YES Fair) for their science fair projects which were submitted for judging on Monday, March 23rd, 2015.

Ethan Johnson, 7th grade, was awarded first place in the category of  Energy and Engineering for his project “Get Wired” which analyzed alternative sources of electricity.  Macayla Fetting, 7th grade, earned third place in the category of Biological Science for her project “Toothbrush Invaders”  which answered a household dilemma of the best location to minimize bacterial growth.

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Ethan Johnson poses with his first place ribbon in front of his science fair board.

Community students grades 5-12 from Sierra Vista, Bisbee, Douglas, Nogales, and Tombstone are eligible to compete in the county’s annual YES fair. Approximately 500 students attended this year’s YES! Fair as applicants or spectators. Students in grades 5-8 may compete in the categories of Energy and Engineering, Technology, Physical Science, Earth & Space Science, and Biological Science while students in grades 9-12 compete in one division only. Those selected as winners are invited to a celebratory dinner. To learn more about the YES! Fair, please visit its website at:

CAS Celebrates STEM Learning with Baseball Connection

CAS Students practice fielding and hitting after learning physics of baseball.

CAS Students practice fielding and hitting after learning physics of baseball.

The Center for Academic Success was excited to host the Arizona Diamondbacks street team on February 27th for its second-annual Science of Baseball spring training event.

Students in Kindergarten through eighth grades rotated through a series of teacher and baseball player led stations which combined the fun of America’s favorite pastime with hands-on physics and bio-mechanical study. Some stations included face painting, where students could get a baseball painted on their cheek, trajectory of flight, where students used blocks and rubber bands to send projectiles through the air with the goal of landing on paper plates worth varying amounts of points, and elasticity ball drop, where students predicted which of four different types of ball would bounce the highest based on its elasticity.

CAS, Center for Academic Success, STEM, Science of Baseball

Students launch small balls off wooden platforms cut a differing angles to envision trajectory.

Students also enjoyed testing trajectory of flight by launching rubber baseballs into the air with a large slingshot. This allowed students to field test how “pop-flies” and “line drives” result from a bat hitting a ball at differing angles. Further, they tested their base-running skills and the idea that a curved arch provides a faster route from home base to second than two straight lines would otherwise.

Earlier that week, students and teachers had reviewed the scientific topics of: trajectory of flight, elasticity, and angular momentum all within the context of baseball in motion. This culminating, hands-on activity provided a three-dimensional physics and mathematics lesson all while having a great time in the Arizona sunshine. The middle school dance team kicked-off the event with its first-ever performance to keep the mood celebratory.

CAS, Center for Academic Success, Science of Baseball, STEM

Face painting lends a fun atmosphere to the baseball-themed event.

The Science of Baseball is a year-long program for which CAS schools has partnered with the Arizona Diamondbacks to provide excellence in education coupled with fun, kinetic activities. Students in CAS middle school perform a series of baseball-related physics experiments as part of Friday electives to envision science and math learning in a new environment. For more information about this program, visit its website at: