Grand Prix Fun in Long Beach Continues, With Solar Grand Prix Races Saturday

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Just as the engines have quieted following last weekend’s Long Beach Grand Prix, the student community is now revving up again for its own version of the spectacular car race, except this time, they are harnessing the power of the sun to fuel their cars.

Since January, Long Beach students from both public and private schools have been designing and testing solar cars, which they will race on Saturday, April 21st at the 3rd Annual Fifth Council District “Solar Grand Prix.” Using solar panels and a small electric motor, 227 students divided into 57 teams, from over 18 schools, will participate in a day long event in El Dorado Park, located at 2760 Studebaker Road (corner of Willow and Studebaker Road)

The first race between middle school students will kick off at 10:30 am, and will run through a series of scheduled events that include competitions in the categories of “Fastest Car”, “Best Overall Design”, “Most Innovative Design”, and “Best Green Design”. High school students will begin racing at 12:30 pm, followed by a 1:30 pm final round to determine the winners of both middle and high school participants. This year’s competition has added a “Coaches Race” to allow teachers and parents, who have coached a team, the chance to race their own solar car. Award ceremonies will be held at 2:30 pm.

“We have a fantastic day set up for the Solar Grand Prix”, says Councilwoman Schipske. “Spectators will witness students using their scientific ingenuity and engineering smarts to compete in this fun event. The Solar Grand Prix’s ultimate goal is to teach our youth about sustainable energy – and in that process – help them utilize their education, creative intellect and competitive spirit to prepare them for possibly becoming the next generation of engineers.”

Councilwoman Schipske and her staff work year round to organize the event, and are instrumental in raising money to pay for the solar car kits and awards given to each team. This year’s sponsors include: Signal Hill Petroleum, P2S Engineering, Port of Long Beach, Long Beach Fire Fighters Association, Ameco Solar, Segue to Solar, Waste Management, Solagex, Dr. Mike Walter, Harbor Trucking Association, Long Beach Lifeguards, Keesal Young and Logan, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union 11, Grand Prix Foundation, Partners of Parks, Lee’s Philly, Long Beach City College, Phat Energy, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters Union 630, and the Long Beach Department of Parks, Recreation and Marine.

Schipske notes that this event would not be possible without the support of sponsors, and the help of over 50 volunteers that include employees from Southern California Edison, Eco Point Energy Services, North American Association of Green Technology, and students from the Automotive Engineering Department of California State University, Long Beach.

A number of exhibitors will also be presenting the latest technology in alternative energy. They include the Port of Long Beach, Solagex, Phat Energy, United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 630, Waste Management, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 11.

The Port of Long Beach will be exhibiting its fully electric Prius “Green Port Pace Car”. As well, various private citizens will also be exhibiting their own electric vehicles.

Through the course of the day, spectators will also be able to purchase meals from several food trucks that include Lee’s Philly, Red Robin YUMMMMobile, and Tango Mango Ice.

Over the past two years, more than 600 students and coaches have participated in the event. After attending a mandatory session on the basics of solar energy, students were given a solar panel and an electric motor to use in their construction of each miniature vehicle. From that point, it was up to each student to use his or her own creativity in building tires, the frame, and other variable designs to maximize each cars’ ability to jet down the track.

Each year, members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters 630 construct two wooden tracks with racing lanes. Each racing lane spans 2 feet wide and 60 feet long and is divided by a guide wire that each car connects to stay in its lane. The Carpenters are also providing water bottles for each contestant.

For more information regarding the Solar Grand Prix, please contact Rachel Powers at the offices of Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske at 562-570-6932, or visit the website.

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