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By STEVEN NALLEY
The Houston High School students who make up the Houston Solar Race Team gave a presentation to the Starkville Kiwanis Club at its meeting Tuesday at the Hilton Garden Inn.
The Houston Solar Race Team, led by faculty from HHS and Houston Vocational Center, has won first-place awards in at least one division of every national Solar Car Challenge since 2001. Its winning solar car, Sundancer, was on display at the entrance to the hotel.
Jim Henson, assistant treasurer with the Starkville Kiwanis Club, said the teamâs national success today will prepare them for successful careers in the future.
âThis is a big deal,â Henson said. âThese people, when they go out into the world, theyâll be able to say, âWeâre national champions.ââ
Starting in 2010, HHS split its team up by gender. The girlsâ team competes in the classic division, which places strict limitations on carsâ components. The boysâ team competes in the open division, which removes some of these limitations, allowing for more expensive, efficient components.
Whitney George, captain of the girlsâ division, said the boysâ Sundancer travels faster than her teamâs Sundancer II, but the classic division routinely sees more entrants than the open division. Also, she said, HHS has won the classic division since the inception of the girlsâ team.
âTechnically, their (car) goes faster, but they have a hub motor,â George said. âIf we had what they had, we could go just as fast as they could.â
Keith Reese, an electricity instructor with Houston Vocational Center, said he was grateful to Mississippi State University for their help making the Sundancer cars winners. He said MSU has worked with Georgia Institute of Technology to get more efficient solar cells for Sundancer, cells with nanotechnology that absorb solar energy from several different angles at once.
âMSU is one of the main reasons weâve won,â Reese said. âTheyâre the ones that assisted us with the design changes. Dr. Marshall Molan and Dr. Mike Mazzola, those two are the ones that helped us redesign the car electrically.â
Reese said he was open to the possibility of a partnership with Calisolar, the solar silicon company based in Sunnyvale, Calif., set to open a new plant in Lowndes County, but nothing is on the table yet.
âStudents have already researched that,â Reese said. âWeâre interested in teaming up with anybody.â
The Solar Car Challenge alternates between closed-track races at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, and cross-country events from Texas to other states covering thousands of miles.
Every four years, Reese said, HHS also travels to the World Solar Challenge, a race across Australia. So far, he said, the teams have been there twice.
âWeâd go to internationals every two years, but itâs just not financially feasible,â Reese said. âYouâre looking at more than $100,000.â