By AUSTIN WELLS
The Greenville High School Solar Team returned home to Greenville Friday after placing second in the annual Solar Car Challenge, a cross country race that began in Fort Worth and ended in Los Angeles.
The team received a warm reception from Greenville residents as its solar car, the Iron Lion, turned into the Greenville High School parking lot Friday afternoon.
Team Captain Jake White said he was really proud of what the team was able to accomplish in this year’s race.
“It went really well,” he said. “This year, we were able to take what we did last year and apply some techniques and strategy, and we were able to get second place.”
The Iron Lion traveled a total distance of 607 miles from Fort Worth to Los Angeles, which took a total of eight days.
Even though the Byron Nelson race team was able to claim the top prize, the GHS Solar Team did not let any disappointment show Friday. They proudly displayed the trophy on top of their custom-made solar car as family and friends snapped photos.
Since the solar car had to rely on energy absorbed from the sun in order for it to run, weather was a key factor during the race. Fortunately, the skies remained fair for most of the journey.
“We did run into some rain, which is obviously not good for a solar car,” White said. “But a couple of times we did drive in the rain.”
White said since the car runs off solar power which gets transmitted to its battery, sometimes the car had enough battery power from the sun to allow it to run when the clouds rolled in.
The solar car reached a top speed of 43 miles per hour, going downhill. Average speeds for the vehicle ran between 20 to 25 miles per hour during the race.
“Toward the end of the day we had to slow down a lot because our batteries were low and we weren’t getting really good sunlight,” Devin Siems, a new member to the GHS solar team, said.
In those instances, the car could only go 15 miles per hour.
The team rotated five drivers during the race. With no air conditioning or radio inside the car, drivers had to brave the Arizona desert heat.
Team Safety Officer Cain Marks said that the team was rarely ever bored during the long road to California.
“Sometimes we were just so focused on the car we didn’t even notice the time pass,” Marks said. “We would read a book, play games on our phones.
“It was pretty hectic sometimes, with oncoming cars and people passing us, so we were aware most of the time.”
The Solar Car Challenge was established in 1993 to help motivate students in science and engineering, and to increase alternative energy awareness. The Challenge teaches high school students around the world how to build roadworthy solar cars.
15 high schools competed in this year’s race, with the Byron Nelson Solar Car team placing first with 660 miles traveled.
While the GHS Solar Team made up a lot of ground from last year’s seventh place finish, Team Captain Jake White had his sights set on a first place finish for next year’s race, which will be a hybrid track and cross country competition.
“We had to work really hard for this one,” White said. “We’d like first place next year, but it’ll be very difficult. There’s a lot of competition and it’s not easy to do. But we look forward to it.”