Solar-powered RC race cars teach valuable energy lesson

solar roller photo
© Solar Rollers/Kickstarter

If the next generation is to make any headway toward renewable energy acceptance, they need an education that will prepare them to conserve power rather than waste it. Unfortunately, they're not getting that education in high school, and only a very determined few are perusing it at the college level. So that leaves free time, when most teenagers are buried in a smartphone.

A new effort on Kickstarter hopes to ignite a love of solar power among the youth by turning it into a game--or more specifically--a race. Solar Rollers are remote controlled race cars custom-built with parts from 1/10 scale radio-controlled cars. The cars use hand-soldered solar arrays to generate power and represent a valuable opportunity for hands-on training in renewable energy at the high school level.

Solar Rollers is an effort of Solar Energy International, a non-profit that focuses on educating students, teachers, veterans and just about anyone else about the promise of free, clean energy from the sun.

"Through the process of designing, building, testing, refining and eventually competing, students push themselves and their teammates to learn more about energy efficiency, photovoltaics (solar electricity), motors, batteries, material properties, friction and more," writes SEI's Solar In the Schools Manager, Noah Davis. "The team starts by building a solar-powered RC car, but the main goal is building their lifelong love of learning."

The cars themselves aren't that remarkable--flat and low to the ground, they're designed for functionality rather than aesthetic. But there's plenty of fun to be had with a battery-free RC car that can travel faster than a human can sprint.

The four existing prototype Solar Rollers will compete in a demonstration race today at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory competition in Denver, Colorado. If the Kickstarter campaign is successful, SEI will create a supportive, instructional online resource for use by the Solar Rollers community nationwide, help kids build more rollers, and organize more races across the nation.

Learn more and support the campaign here.

Tags: Concepts & Prototypes | Solar Technology