July 2005

Energy Educational Events Dominate Spring Months

April and May were busy months for the education department at FSEC. From facilitating the Middle School Science Bowl in April to sponsoring and coordinating the EnergyWhiz Olympics to hosting the Awards for Exemplary Projects in Energy and Conservation in May, FSEC staffers Susan Schleith and Penny Hall and their many volunteers highlighted energy in the schools in Brevard County and throughout Florida.

EnergyWhiz Olympics

On Saturday, May 7, the Florida Solar Energy Center was one of the busiest places under the sun.

Crowd at the EnergyWhiz Olympics
Students, teachers and spectators enjoyed a sunny day at the 2005 EnergyWhiz Olympics.
(Photo: Nick Waters)

The 2005 EnergyWhiz Olympics started early that day with more than 400 middle school and high school students, their families and teachers preparing for the day's activities to learn more about alternative fuels, solar energy and hydrogen. The students, carrying their model-sized solar and hydrogen vehicles, proceeded to check-in, then on to vehicle weigh-in and technical judging. Engineers from the nearby Kennedy Space Center, the Florida Solar Energy Center and a number of local engineering societies volunteer their time and expertise for this event each year.

Participant looking at model car
Taking a closer look at a hydrogen powered model car.
(Photo: Nick Waters)

It's been 13 years since FSEC conducted the first "Junior Solar Sprint" event as a competition among middle school teams from across Florida. Students designed, built and raced model-sized cars, using photovoltaic panels to provide power. JSS continues today as a part of the EnergyWhiz Olympics. Each student-designed vehicle must meet weight and size parameters; each vehicle is judged on its design, technical merit, innovation and performance on the race track. Through the years, Florida students have placed among the top teams in the national competition, held annually in Golden, Colorado. With the addition of the Science Bowl, Florida has maintained its high standing, winning top honors in 2004 and placing third in 2005.

Two years ago, a hydrogen component called the "High School Hydrogen Sprint" was added to the EnergyWhiz Olympics. In this event, teams of two to six students design and build cars, using a small commercial PEM fuel cell. The students also write, produce and give entertaining and informative 10-minute presentations on hydrogen technology. The High School Hydrogen Sprint was developed to provide a hands-on opportunity for high school students to explore the emerging hydrogen technologies. Their vehicles must meet certain weight and size specifications, but beyond that, materials and design parameters are wide open. Students produce hydrogen for the fuel by electrolysis powered by photovoltaics. Vehicles are judged on design, technical merit, innovation and performance on a 7-meter track.

EnergyWhiz Olympics participants with H2 car
Students checking out thier hydrogen-powered model car before the big race.
(Photo: Nick Waters)

This year saw the addition of the "Hands-on Hydrogen Demonstration Race" by the top eight teams in the "Middle School Science Bowl." FSEC staffers gave the top teams hydrogen fuel cells and challenged them to design and build model-sized moving vehicles with on-board hydrogen storage. Teams then raced the vehicles at the EnergyWhiz Olympics. The science bowl, sponsored in part by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science, features both a question-and-answer competition and the hands-on engineering component. The program held at FSEC was one of 23 regional competitions. The winning teams from the regional competitions met in competition at the National Science Bowl held in June at Golden, Colorado.

Meanwhile, back at FSEC. . .

Participants at the starting line of the Junior Solar Sprint
Ready .. Set .. Go!!
(Photo: Nick Waters)

As the morning progressed, the students proceeded through the preliminary steps of weigh-in and judging, followed by the presentation on hydrogen by the high school teams, which were well received by the audience. But the culmination of the day's events came with the start of the racing events: solar and hydrogen. As the crowd found the best vantage points and a little shade, competitors readied their vehicles. The sunny day provided all the solar power teams could want for their solar vehicles, and it provided the perfect resource for the hydrogen generators. The shouts, cheers and smiles reflected the energy that ran through the crowd.

Following the races, trophies were awarded to the teams in each of several categories. (Click here to see all of the winners. http://www.fsec.ucf.edu/en/education/k-12/events/ewhiz_olympics.htm).

As the day ended, tired students, proud parents and teachers returned to their life-sized vehicles in the parking lot. Although most of those vehicles are fueled by gasoline, those who rode in them this evening had a vision of the potential of alternative fuels, based on the potential that they had seen in the knowledge, the technical savvy and the foresight of the student participants of the EnergyWhiz Olympics.

EPEC Awards

The crowd was not quite as large, but the "energy level" was just as high at the Second Annual EPEC Awards ceremony when the Awards for Exemplary Projects in Energy and Conservation (EPEC) were presented to 21 Brevard County students at a reception and exhibit at FSEC on May 10.

The projects receiving EPEC Awards were selected by judges from FSEC, the Space Coast Clean Cities Coalition and the National Energy Foundation at the regional science fairs held in February and April. Students from elementary, middle and high schools who received the awards exhibited their projects for the community at FSEC. One adult attending the exhibit commented, "This gives me hope for the future of our energy resources."

This year new awards were presented to teachers who sponsor Energy Action Patrol Programs in their schools. Six outstanding programs and the teachers who sponsor them were honored.

Followng the exhibit, guests gathered in the auditorium where FSEC Director James Fenton welcomed EPEC Award recipients and their guests, then presented each student with a medallion and a T-shirt. Energy Action Patrol teacher-sponsors received a trophy. Speakers for the occasion included Robin Reinarts on behalf of Johnson Controls, Inc. and the National Energy Foundation and Frank Leslie, Florida Institute of Technology, for Space Coast Clean Cities Coalition.