Submitted by Hawaiian Electric:


More than 200 elementary and middle school students put their skills to the test recently as they raced their handmade model solar-powered vehicles down a 20-meter track (about 60 feet) at Kapolei High School’s sunny tennis courts.

 “The Solar Sprint Exhibition encourages students to apply science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) principles taught in school and experience how the sun’s light is converted into useful electrical energy,” said Sam Nichols, Hawaiian Electric Company senior community affairs consultant.

To meet the Solar Sprint challenge, the bare-framed, light-weight PV-powered vehicles they built were required to run the course in only 15 seconds, a feat that had to be completed twice.

To exceed the challenge, vehicles were loaded with 12 ounces of lead weights to test whether they could run the same course in 25 seconds. With no additional source of power, it became a tough effort for some of the vehicles.

 “In class the students learn about success, failure and reapproaching a problem, applying engineering design techniques. While building their vehicles, they experiment with different materials and designs to get the best aerodynamics, durability, and speed needed to excel at the Solar Sprint,” Ms. Nichols said. “We’re pleased to partner with the Hawai‘i Department of Education to provide this unique educational activity to our public school students.”

Participating on April 25 were 240 students from ‘Ewa Makai Middle, Kaimukī Middle, Kapolei Middle, Mākaha Elementary, Nānākuli Elementary, Niu Valley Middle, Wai‘anae Elementary, Wai‘anae Intermediate and Waipahu Intermediate schools.

“We’re grateful for the participation of over 40 dedicated volunteers from the Department of Education, Hawaiian Electric, and Kapolei High, including  the school’s Junior ROTC members, whose help was so important to the execution of the Solar Sprint’s timed trials,” Ms. Nichols said.


Photo by Hawaiian Electric

Grace Chinen (L) and Alyssa Buccat (R) from Waipahu Intermediate are displaying the bare frame of their model solar-powered vehicle on which a mini photovoltaic panel will be attached prior to the timed trials.