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Students gear up for solar car challenge

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Twelve students and three teachers from Liberty Christian School in Argyle are preparing to take an eight-day road trip from Texas Motor Speedway to Los Angeles starting this week as part of the Solar Car Challenge.

“This year’s race promises to be an adventure of a lifetime for these students,” said Dr. Brent Dragoo, a Liberty science teacher.

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.

Top teachers from across the country have put their minds together to make the Solar Car Challenge one of the most engaging and motivating high school science programs today.

“This year’s race presents some interesting challenges that we have never experienced before,” said Dragoo. “We have always raced around the flat Texas Motor Speedway. This year, we will see elevation changes that will be most prominent in the El Paso area.”

The trip will run rally style. Racing will start each morning at 9 a.m. Cars will be released at 2-minute intervals, and racing will end eight hours later. Each morning, every car will start from the same place.

“The DFW to LA race presents some interesting logistical challenges as well,” Dragoo said. “The rules require us to use three vehicles in addition to the solar car, creating a caravan of four vehicles, which include the lead vehicle, the solar car, ‘chase 1’ that will carry the trailer, and ‘chase 2’ that will run approximately one to two minutes behind to slow traffic and alert drivers to the caravan ahead.”

Dragoo added that student safety is always of paramount importance.

“The cars are required to be built with safety in mind,” he said. “We have specifically welded safety zones that are part of the chassis. Before the race even begins, the car will be scrutinized by a panel of judges. Students will be quizzed about the car, how it was built, and the decisions that were made. Only the students will be allowed to answer those questions.

“As we prepare for this big race, we are all so thankful to our sponsors, parents, and Liberty that allow us to continue to learn while building an interesting ‘out of the box’ project. There are simply some lessons that are better learned outside the classroom.”

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