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July 13, 2013

Solar-charged challenge

GREENVILLE — Members of the Greenville High School Iron Lion Solar Car Team will be hoping for blue skies and a bright sun next week as they compete in the 2013 Solar Car Challenge.

The event is an eight-day cross country race beginning at the Texas Motor Speedway on July 22 to Los Angeles, Calif.

Teammate Press Alford said building a solar car from the ground up has been a challenging but extraordinary rewarding accomplishment.

“It started as a steel piece of pipe,” he said. “It’s an awesome feeling, I couldn’t ask for anything better than what we have here.”

Before and during the race teammates will take turns driving the solar car, while others map out, using physics and mathematics, how fast the car can go while keeping the energy it receives from the sun from depleting.

“We have equations to determine how fast can we go and be effective,” he said. “It’s been stressful. But it’s been fun. To me, it’s one of the most important things I’ve done.”

The five drivers are Jose Casteneda, Jake White, Devin Siems, Phillip Malone and Caleb Bryan. Racers will make seven stops in four different states, including a stop in Carlsbad, N.M. and Wickenburg, Ariz.

The solar car is a dream three years in the making, according to Joel Pitts, head sponsor for the team.

The car has improved since last year. The team made it more aerodynamic, so they expect it to run at a constant 35-40 MPH on the road.

Pitts said with the team’s hard work and determination, they’ve already won in his mind.

“Anyone who has built something from the ground up knows what it takes to get it to the final product,” he said. “That’s winning on its own.”

Pitts said the 12 student team has been able to overcome many obstacles during the whole process and have built strong relationships with each other.

“They are like a tight-knit family,” he said. “They’re uplifting each other.”

Pitts told the story of one of the team captains, Jose Casteneda, who was given a full scholarship to Lincoln Technical Iinstitute not only because he listed his welding work on the solar car in his resume, but because he was the only applicant who gave the definition of integrity.

“If this program is teaching kids integrity, then it will benefit them in the future greatly,” Pitts said. “Our students are exceptional.”

The team travels to the Texas Motor Speedway on July 20, where each of the 14 teams will have their car inspected before the race begins.

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