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The cars of tomorrow will be designed by the elementary students of today

It may seem an obvious statement, but the solar cars of tomorrow are being designed by elementary students in Texas, and a story on, illustrates how this reality may come into being.
Posted: May 5, 2013 - 2:59AM
Author: Don Bain

Annual attempts to build high mileage solar vehicles are quite common around the world today, but this one is quite unusual, simply because the solar vehicles in this particular race are designed and created by fourth and fifth grade students.

These young and creative minds are grappling with the serious issues that will confront society as high priorities by the time they are mature adults and now they tackle them without the self-limiting beliefs likely to inflict many by the time they reach that age.

They also learned that success does not necessarily result from the first effort, as the experience of the students of the Hoffmann Elementary School Dragons illustrates very well.

The Texas Solar Race Car Event was held at Gustafson Stadium where 224 teams from the Northside Independent School District fielded their creations.

The Dragons had spent two full months designing a solar car to enter into the competition. On race day a student from another team accidentally stepped on their entry, more or less rendering it worthless – or so it seemed.

Nevertheless, such are the setbacks any truly inventive progression goes through before a real breakthrough is realized. It’s an appropriate sidebar to the phenomenal solar plane currently demonstrating the enormous promise of solar energy, as well.

The young designers had no idea their adult equivalents deal with such impasses every day, while innovation and progress continue simply because professionals return to the drawing board to overcome such setbacks (today we go back to the computer).

There are 70 districts in the Northside School division of the San Antonio school system and this year 62 of the schools fielded multiple teams with inventive names like Ninja Monkeys, Taco Cats, Banana Warriors and the Gummy Bears.

Instead of simply accepting defeat and giving up, the Dragons used super glue to reconstruct their entry and with indefatigable effort, managed to take first place in the opening heat and advanced to the semifinals.

What they learned from this is to not give up and to keep trying to reach their goals – that is the very spirit that will solve our most perplexing problems – the simple acceptance of the principle that a solution always exists, even if it is extraordinarily elusive.

Other successful entrants learned similar lessons from the engineering exercise, as the fourth grade Quicksters from Evers Elementary also had to use glue to complete the competition. Their entry ran on wheels made from old CD-ROMs, one of which had to be glued back on before the finals.

Out of 62 teams, you can be sure there’s an engineer or two among them – one of which might actually find the secret of cheap, plentiful energy that was expected to the be the promise of the 21st century – at least in most of the science fiction of the 1950s.

Torque News salutes the Northside School District of San Antonio for an event that teaches kids things not easily transferred in the schoolroom environment.

Pictured above is a full size solar car from WikiMedia Commons not designed by fourth or fifth graders.