Traveling halfway around the world, meeting minds from top universities, and applying physics and engineering knowhow to real-life challenges – that is the experience of Liberty Christian’s Solar Car Team in its race across Australia in the Bridgestone World Solar Car Challenge.
On Oct. 8, the 11-member solar car team and its science teachers and sponsors arrived ready to learn and compete with its solar car, which left the United States by boat in July.
The team included leaders Brent Dragoo, Heather Lytle, Sue Gallo, Evan Hunt, David Martin, Bary Willcox, and John Brolick, and team manager Clayton Odom along with fellow classmates, Michael Becker, Gabe Bezner, Cole Brolick, Brayden Dragoo, Henry Harshfield, Silas Hill, Austin Hunt, Cameron Mutis, David Qian, and Kevin Wissink.
Each day of the race was filled with opportunities, challenges, growth, and fun as students traveled through the beautiful sun scorched outback of Australia on its almost 1,900-mile trek from Darwin to Adelaide.
As one of only three high school teams in the world to compete, Liberty students met university teams from as far away as Turkey, Germany, South Korea, China, Poland, Hungry, Chili, Belgium, South Africa, Malaysia, and Thailand.
In the Adventure Class, Liberty Christian’s car came in just behind Houston, Miss., when the race concluded on Oct. 24.
As the car reached its journey’s end, an eruption of applause surrounded Liberty’s car that displayed an American flag waving in the wind.
It was discovered soon after that Liberty’s car had an intact battery seal, meaning the team had never touched the battery during the race, a feat only two other teams had achieved.
The next day, the team was with the car all day, answering questions and posing for pictures. The car was then staged along with all of the other 44 teams in the middle of the road, which stopped traffic for several hours and gave the general public time to learn more about the race. In addition, Liberty’s team members met the man who helped design their car’s motor and learned how to operate it in its most efficient mode.
“We also began swapping shirts with other teams,” said Dr. Dragoo. “We met many people from all over the world who wanted our high school shirts because they couldn’t believe we made it all the way to Australia and didn’t break down during the race.”
Soon after, the team joined the World Solar Car Challenge parade down one of the main streets of Adelaide.
“Teams from all over the world walked on the sidewalk behind their solar cars chanting and singing their national anthems,” Dr. Dragoo added. “It was an awesome day to be immersed in the culture of the nations.”
Even before the race, the team experienced difficulties they hadn’t expected. Groups from all over the world who had already finished their car came to help Liberty make the race, including two German electricians that the team befriended from Bochum University of Applied Sciences. The team enjoyed long discussions with teams from Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a group from Singapore, and the University of Durham from the United Kingdom.
The team began each day of the trip with devotions and ended each day with homework to keep up with their studies back home.
Once the race festivities concluded, the team spent a few days sightseeing, from visiting a large nature preserve on Kangaroo Island; touring the metropolis Adelaide, “the city of churches;” and enjoying Sydney’s library of New South Wales, opera house, zoo, beach, and observatory.
“Our tour guide at the observatory was a doctoral student in astronomy,” Dr. Dragoo said. “We gained phenomenal insight into the southern sky – best planetarium trip I ever experienced.”
Before returning home, the team had one more academic objective to accomplish – taking the rigorous college entrance exam, the PSAT.
Now that students are back in the states and back in school, it may at times feel like they never left. Yet, as they stop and ponder the whirlwind trip of a lifetime they had the opportunity to take last month, they will most likely call to mind the many memories that made the trip so special, the learning so fruitful, the friendships so impactful, and their God so loving and powerful.