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MadSCI-entists Off to the Races!

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by Ruben Lopez

mdsci_with_romoIf you are a NASCAR fan you know that in 2008 the racing series once known as the Winston Cup Series became what is now known as the Sprint Cup Series. But did you also know that the Winston Solar Challenge is now known as the Solar Car Challenge? 

The Solar Car Challenge, now in its 17th year, will take place this summer at Texas Motor Speedway in Dallas. NASCAR fans that attend should be prepared for a totally different kind of experience. Don’t expect to hear the roar (or smell the fumes) of a 358 cubic inch, 650 horse power automobile transferring 540 ft. lbs of torque to those 11-inch Goodyear Eagle Racing radials as it zooms by you at 200 miles per hour. Instead, you will hear the barely audible sound of 3 inch bicycle-like tires powered by solar panel-charged batteries wistfully propelling a high school student at something like 18-20 mph.  The bag of potato chips you open to eat with your hamburger will make more noise than the cars competing on the track that day. This year’s Solar Car Challenge, July 14-19th, will include 29 teams from 12 states.

For the past two years a group of Madison high school students has been slowly learning what it takes to build a solar-powered car from the ground up.  Madison’s Solar Car Initiative, or MadSCI, is led by their advisor, founder, and Madison High School chemistry teacher and science club coach, Dr. Joseph Dungan. Their first solar car, Solaris, cost $15,000 to build. They are now working on their third solar car, Helios. In order to build a competitive state of the art car for the race in Dallas, they will need to raise about $30,000. We have all heard about the dire need for our students to excel in math and science in order for the U.S. to remain competitive in the 21st century. The Solar Car Challenge is about all of this and much more.


                                            The Nova

The students at MadSCI are learning about engineering, alternative energy, battery technology, aerodynamics, computer science, and meteorology (yes, weather forecasting). Throw in some fundraising and public relations experience and you have an event that we need many more students to participate in, not just the students at Madison High School. What can you do to help? By July 1st of this year… support the students at MadSCI by purchasing “solar cells,” t-shirts, advertising in their program bulletin, or contributing parts or good ‘ole cash.

Next year…help another group of high school kids get into the race!                           

For more information on donating, please contact Dr. Joseph Dungan at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Photos courtesy of Valerie Gamao, MadSCI

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