Belmont High Solar Car Team Set for Summer Run Through Texas

Belmont High's team will be first Massachusetts school to compete in the annual national challenge.

Two years ago when Belmont High School senior James Stadler first heard of a project involving students building a solar car, he thought they were constructing a miniature toy vehicle. 

But when they told him that the Belmont Solar Car Team were planning to build a full-size car that could speed down the road at more then 40 mph, "I though how cool it would be to get involved in this innovated project," Stadler, who today is the team's project manager, told Belmont Patch after speaking to the Belmont School Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 21.

In the past two years, Stadler and his 20 fellow team members are about to see their efforts put on a national stage as the Belmont School Committee approved the team's participation in the annual Solar Car Challenge this July in Dallas, Texas as Belmont will be the first Massachusetts team (the second from New England) to race in the event since it started in 1995.

Once there, the 12-member team will race for two days on the Texas Speedway before heading on the roads for a two day race on the roads of the Lone Star State to Austin from July 18 to 25. Not only are they building it, the car will be driven by team members who possess a driver's license, said Dyer. 

"This is an incredibly exciting multiyear project," said School Committee member Ann Lougee.

The team began in November 2011 as an engineering project, said Leon Dyer, a Chenery Middle School teacher who specializes in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses.

"The goal was to bring more design and engineering back to Belmont. We kind of lost that a little bit over the years," said Dyer, who taught many of the team members at the Chenery in similar solar technology courses. 

"Many have an interest to go off to college and study engineering so this is a perfect avenue," said Dyer.

The team meets three days a week in a room in a modular room in the rear of the high school where all aspects of the project – from design, engineering and manufacturing – takes place. 

The car – which is a single seat vehicle measuring approximately 15 feet long and 5 feet wide and is required to be registered for travel on public roads – will be powered from sunlight captured by roof panels with the energy stored in batteries. 

"It's not a car you would see any time soon putting kids into to drive around town," said Dyer.

The project's budget is $8,000, with the funding coming from private donations, donors and fundraising over the past two years. 

"It would be nice if the school department wanted to donate something to us tonight," quipped Dyer.

The construction is actually underway – the frame is currently being welded – with the motor schedule to arrive next week. Dyer said the team hopes to have the car ready to show it off at Belmont Town Day in mid-May .

By then, the car will be too big to store in the modular so Dyer said the team will be looking for a resident volunteer willing to store the vehicle in a garage until the car is shipped to Texas in mid-July as the team will fly back and forth from Texas. 

For Stadler, who has always been interested in physics and science, now that the actual construction is underway, "it's becoming much more real. It's no longer an idea. It's going to happen." 


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