BRISTOL — After finishing in 12th place at last year’s Bristol Motor Speedway Solar Go-Kart Challenge endurance race, Science Hill High School students hoped for a stronger showing this year after making modifications to their solar-powered vehicles.
The go-karts, built entirely by 13 students with the guidance of automotive teacher Jeff Kleven, were designed and constructed with the help of the Perkins Reserve Grant from the Tennessee Department of Education.
This year, Science Hill students were able to use an additional $1,000 for upgrades, and the majority of the funds went toward installing a stronger gauge wire for the vehicle and new tires, in hopes of finishing stronger in the endurance race.
“They have to figure out how fast they can go and for how long,” Kleven said ahead of Monday’s race. “But there are a lot of variables. How much battery power do we have? And how much battery reserve do we have?”
Jonathan Hopland, a senior who helped construct and design the go-kart, said the team of students learned a lot from last year’s mistakes to make the proper modifications.
“We started with just a frame, and we built everything on top of that. This year, we just did some refinements with new wheels, new wiring and other upgrades,” he said. “We didn’t have to do quite as much this year, but we did fix a few things.”
This year, the Science Hill team improved drastically in the endurance race, placing fourth.
Though they came in 12th in this year’s speed race, Hopland said the annual competition, which invites school districts across Northeast Tennessee, is an important learning experience for technical students looking toward the future of solar technology.
“It’s a lot different than working on any other car because you’ve got solar panels that you have to learn about and figure out,” he said. “It’s definitely interesting and a good thing to learn because this is something we’re probably eventually going to start moving towards.”
Greene Technology Center won the endurance race, Clinch School’s team came in second and Johnson County High School placed third.
In the speed race, Hampton High School took first place, Clinch School took second and Elizabethton High School came in third.