Solar cars plus kids equals fun!

Published 9:11 pm Friday, July 2, 2010

GARYSBURG — The North Carolina Center for Automotive Research proved to be a superlative backdrop for Northampton County 4-Hers to learn about alternative forms of energy.

On Wednesday, more than a dozen 4-Hers gathered at NCCAR to participate in Northampton County Cooperative Extension’s “Racing with the Sun: Solar Cars.” The 17 youngsters got a tour of the NCCAR facility, learned about solar energy, racecar driving and topped the day off with a race using solar cars they assembled.

According to Assistant Extension Agent Caroline Brown, a partnership between North Carolina State University and Duke University yielded a curriculum on solar energy powered car and free solar powered car kits as well as training for Extension staff.

“I think it’s gone really well and we hope the 4-Hers have learned something,” she said.

4-Her Jack Bolton of Conway said he knew a little about solar energy before the program.

“It’s better than gasoline…it’s more environmentally friendly,” he said. “If we can get more electric cars then it will make the world better.”

Lacy Ward of Rich Square and Dae’Jah Vincent of Gaston said they enjoyed learning about electric vehicles and racing their solar cars.

Ward said she was familiar with electric cars. She said a high school where she previously lived use to participate in rallies.

Vincent was happy with how her solar car competed in the race.

“We made it to the finals,” she said. “We ended up coming in third.”

Joining the 4-Hers for the day were NCCAR’s Chief Operating Officer Simon Cobb, Tom Pope with Northampton County High School-East’s Electric Vehicle Program along with the founder of the program Harold Miller, Northampton County Commission Chair Fannie Greene and professional racecar driver Keith Edwards.

The latter offered up some advice for those with racing dreams.

“Racing is 100 percent concentration; I give it 110 percent,” he said.

The Pendleton native began his career racing go-karts and is now a short-track racer. Edwards also drove a car for the Northampton East Automotive Team (NEAT) during electric vehicle competitions.

Edwards noted the safety equipment racecar drivers’ utilize with a 4-Her modeling a fire suit and helmet.

Another vital part of racing, Edwards said, is math.

“Most of the (crew) who set up the racecar are really good at math,” he said. “So, get busy on your math.”

Pope, Miller and Cobb spoke about the importance of teaching young people about alternative energy.

Pope, an interim instructor at NCHS-East, said it was a good time to begin to teach the younger generation about alternative energies.

Cobb said electrical components are becoming increasingly present in vehicles. He noted many of those in engineering programs at universities are from different countries.

“They’re not staying here,” he said.

Cobb noted the importance of students getting involved in science and math programs in order for the United States to be competitive in the automotive technology field.

Miller agreed, saying NCCAR could have a part in fielding that interest.

“This track is going to be a door,” said Miller.