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Lesson Plan: Solar Car Challenge (2014)

Prepared by: Christi Mendoza, Chrissy Foster


Table of Contents:

Intent and Overview

Competition Guidelines

Site Preparation

Track Specifications

Vehicle Specifications

Race Format and Rules


Judging and Evaluation


Intent and Overview

Sustainability is the defining challenge of our time. Unprecedented global growth and consumption have created dramatic impacts for society and our planet. How we respond will determine whether the 21st century is one of rebirth and prosperity or an unprecedented disaster for people and nature alike. In the coming decades, transportation in the U.S. is expected to change radically in response to environmental constraints, fluctuating oil availability, and economic factors. The transportation systems that emerge in the 21st century will need to be innovative and will depend on the imagination and skill of today’s young people. As future scientists and engineers, you could lead the development of new vehicle and fuel technologies. To do so, you will need to consider mobility, environmental, and economical needs.

In this QESST Solar Car Challenge, students will design a solar car using commonly available components available to them in everyday life and certain supplied materials (solar panels, DC motors, etc.) to challenge their peers in head-­‐to-­‐head competition. This guideline document simply provides an overview of how to facilitate the solar car challenge.


Competition Guidelines

Welcome to the exciting world of the QESST Solar Car Challenge! You have taken on a fun, exciting program that captures the imaginations and creativity of young people, while providing an opportunity for volunteers to share their skills and ideas. There may be some headaches along the way (especially if the sun doesn’t shine), but the result will be a great sense of accomplishment. The feedback you will receive from the students, teacher/mentors, and volunteers that participate in this program will make all your hard work worthwhile. This guide is written as just that -­‐ a guide.

We look forward to your participation in the QESST Solar Car Challenge. Have fun!


Site Preparation

A Host Site is the organization/person that plans and organizes a QESST Solar Car Challenge. The Host Site responsibilities are inviting schools to participate, distributing materials, finding sponsors, managing accounts payable/accounts receivable, recruiting and training technical as well as race day volunteers, scheduling, and managing race day.


Track Specifications

There will be two track events for this challenge: the sprint challenge and the long distance challenge. You can enter in one or both of these challenges.

Sprint Challenge

  1. The length of the race course is 5 meters over flat
  2. Race lanes are 60 cm
  3. The guide wire will be located in the center of the track and will not be more than 5 cm above the track surface.
  4. The tracks are rubber mats that will be laid on grass.

Long Distance Challenge

  1. The length of the race course is 10 meters over flat
  2. Race lanes are 60 cm
  3. The guide wire will be located in the center of the track and will not be more than 5 cm above the track surface.
  4. The tracks are rubber mats that will be laid on grass.


Vehicle Specifications

  1. The vehicle must be safe to For instance, there must be no sharp edges, projectiles, etc.
  2. The vehicle must fit the following dimensions: 30 by 60 cm. by 30 cm.
  3. The sun’s light is the only energy source that may be used to power the No other batteries or energy storage devices are permitted.
  4. Solar energy enhancing devices, such as mirrors, are permitted, but must be firmly attached to the
  5. The vehicle must be steered by the guide wire using one or more eyelets affixed to the front of the The vehicle must be easily removable from the guide wire, without disconnecting the guide wire.
  6. The body of the car must be three The solar cell cannot be used as the body of the car (e.g. teams may not bolt the axles and wheels to the solar cell directly).
  7. Vehicles are strongly encouraged to be sustainable and mostly use recyclable

Mandatory Materials:

  • Solar panel with accompanying devices (e.g. alligator clips and motor)

Example materials to construct the body of the solar car:

  • CDs
  • Lids from food containers
  • Straws
  • Rubber bands


Race Format and Rules

  1. At race time, the vehicle will be placed behind the starting line with all its wheels in contact with the A sheet covering, provided by QESST, will be used to cover, but not touch, the solar panel until the race begins.
  2. An early or push start may result in either a disqualification or a re‐ The determination will be left to the judges.
  3. All vehicles will be started when the official signal is The winner will be the first vehicle to cross the finish line or the farthest car down the race track when the race is called.
  4. During the initial heats, the judges may declare multiple wins or
  5. One team member must wait at the finish line to catch the
  6. Team members may not accompany or touch the vehicle on the Vehicles stalled on the track may be retrieved after the race has ended.
  7. Lane changing or crossing will result in
  8. Challenges must be made before the judges begin the next All challenges must come from the team members who are actively competing and must be directed to the judges. The decision of the judges is final.
  9. The vehicle and team member must remain at the finish line until the order of the race has been
  10. Judges will inspect all cars prior to the final heat or at any time during and after the



Awards will be given for the three fastest cars and three best designs. All participants will receive a QESST Solar Car Challenge Participant certificate.


Judging and Evaluation

The heart of the event is the race, and it must run smoothly. It’s important that the judges know the information on this page, and the next page thoroughly. The monitors need to understand the steps of the race, and their rolls in enforcing the track monitoring. The four steps of the race are detailed below, followed by more specifics and dispute information.



  • The Lead Judge will call for a heat to “STAGE”.
  • The students will bring their cars to the
  • The judges will check each car at the start
  • The Judge will indicate any “no shows”.



  • All spectators will be moved back and the announcement is made that the heat is about to
  • Each student will set their cars behind the start line, turn on the motor and shield the sun from the car’s solar panel by using the “cover”, provided by
  • The Lead Judge will signal the start, the students remove the cover over their car, and the race If a car cannot get going on its own, it will be permissible to let the student gently push the car to start the momentum.



  • Students that are racing cars are not to leave their position at the start, or end, of the track during the race, even if their car has become hung up on the wire or has stopped during the Judges and Monitors are to assist moving cars along the track.
  • Judges are not to be They are required to watch every race thoroughly. ANYONE interfering with a judge or the judge’s eye contact with the race should be told (by the judge or monitor) to leave or stay stand back during the race.



  • At the end of each race the judges will agree on first and second place
  • The Judge will acknowledge/announce the first and second winners, so as to avoid disputes
  • The Lead Judge will indicate first, second, and third place
  • The Judges will begin staging for the next
  • Should there be a dispute see



  • There should be one start judge and at least one finish line judge during the
  • Cars must have passed inspection prior to racing their first
  • Cars may go through design competition after the race, but are encouraged to complete this prior to the race, primarily in case of potential damage to the
  • Competition is by process of The first and second place winners will continue on the winner’s side of the ladder and eight losers continue on the other side.
  • A car is eliminated when it has two It’s possible that a few cars won’t have two losses before the final heat, but when the final race is run, the race is formally over.
  • A loss can occur by losing a heat or by not racing the designated



Should there be a dispute, the Lead Judge should briefly address the dispute with parties making the protest and the other judges at the time of the dispute.



  • Judges will be Judges will call a false start and restage the heat, if needed.
  • Judges will discourage any interruptions to your duties, because distractions will cause a delay in the
  • Judges will refer people to the committee chairmen, registration or other volunteers for questions and

Permanent link to this article: https://qesst.asu.edu/lesson-plan-solar-car-challenge

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