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Solar Powered Car STEM CHALLENGE

2680 West County Road 476
Bushnell, Florida  33513

Press Release


Date:               April 12, 2017

Contact:          Colleen Strickland, Curriculum Supervisor

Re:  Solar Powered Car STEM CHALLENGE

Let’s run on the Sun!  Eighth grade students from Wildwood Middle High and South Sumter Middle participated in the school district’s second annual Solar Powered Car STEM Challenge.    The challenge was created in response to Superintendent Richard A. Shirley and his STEM Advisory team’s endeavor to increase STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) opportunities for students across the district helping prepare them for college or careers upon graduation.

Student fascination with renewable energy technology is a growing phenomenon in Florida.   The Solar Powered Car STEM Challenge was a daylong event where students were able to showcase their hands-on renewable energy cars.   Each team consisting of 2-3 members was responsible for designing and building a solar powered race car.   Students were supplied with a motor and a solar panel.  The chassis, wheels and transmission could be made from any other materials they chose.  Cars were judged on design, innovation and performance.   Each team’s effort was focused toward the final event- a 20 meter, wire-guided sprint race where the best design and construction paid off with the win!   

The Sumter STEM Challenge Model follows the process of Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create and Test.   Students were asked to make a racecar run on the sun!   From there students had to utilize their knowledge of alternative energy fuel sources, scientific know-how, creative thinking, experimentation and team work.   Competitors arrived at the event held at the Sumter Professional Center in Wildwood ready for time trials.   Teams were allowed up to three time trials during the one hour session.   During time trails teams could make modifications to their cars.   Times earned during the time trials were used to set up the race brackets.  The second phase of the competition involved team interviews with a panel of judges.   Each team had four minutes to explain the decisions made while designing and building the cars and reasoning behind any modifications made during time trials.   The final phase of the competition involved the head to head competition to determine the first, second and third fastest cars! School sponsors Travis Childs, Kevin Strickland and Shelly Paulinyce were encouraging students every step of the way.  Race Officials were high school students who participated in the race last school year. 

Lightening McQueen, Zachary Blackwelder, Lauren Pike and Osiel Cordoza of South Sumter Middle School swept the race placing first with the fastest car.   Best Design, Innovation and Best of Show categories went to Yurika Negrette, Trinity Joiner and Evan Rice of South Sumter Middle.  Team DJ’s, Jamoni Lee, Shekina Rivers and Daisy Rodriguez of Wildwood Middle High School placed second.  Third Place went to team Solar Sonic, Yurika Negrette, Trinity Joiner and Evan Rice of South Sumter Middle School followed by team Tigers, Hunter Cleason, Micah Loback and Emma Lewis of Wildwood Middle High in Fourth Place.  The top four cars will be advancing to the state Junior Solar Sprint Energy Wiz competition in May.    

Teachers from both schools have been involved in extensive training in STEM challenges and lesson development in the area of STEM this year.   Funding for this challenge was provided by Duke Energy Education Foundation and Suncoast Federal Credit Union Foundation.



Lightening McQueen- First Place-Zachary Blackwelder, Lauren Pike, Osiel Cordoza  

3 students from team Lightening McQueen  

Team DJ’s- Second Place- Daisy Rodriguez, Jamoni Lee, Shekina Rivers 

Students from Team DJ's  

Solar Sonic -Best Design, Most Innovative, Best of Show and Third Place Race-  Yurika Negrette, Trinity Joiner,  Evan Rice, Superintendent Rick Shirley 

Mr. Shirley with Team Solar Sonic Students  

Tigers- Fourth Place-Hunter Cleason, Emma Lewis and Micah Loback 

Students from Solar Car Tigers team  

Teams working on cars in the pit:  

Students working on Solar Car Pit Crew  

Cars on the Track:

Solar Car Track surrounded by students watching race