I want to race solar cars, too

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 22, 2003

As I interviewed the students, parents and teachers participating in the Dell-Winston Solar Car Race Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, I couldn't help but have a great deal of respect for them.

These people had given up weeks of their summer vacation in order to pursue a dream of designing, constructing and driving a solar-powered car.

As odd as it sounds, it's a pretty big dream to have. And an even bigger one to actually carry out - especially when you consider the majority of the work is done by high school students.

From what I gathered, dozens of high schools across the country attempt this challenge. Only a few see it through to completion. Be it cost prohibitive (some cars range into the hundreds of thousands of dollars), time prohibitive, or even a simple lack of support - several have the same dream, and few are able to fulfill it.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the whole experience for me was getting to know the students on a level not in a scholastic environment.

Sure, it was a learning project, but these kids were in their element. Testing the fruits of their labor and having the support of their families, friends, teachers, community and businesses. The kids were the drivers, the mechanics, the documentarians. This was their experience. The adults were there for guidance and the occasional pep talk. And believe me, when something went wrong on one of the cars, it was the kids, not the adults, who felt the pressure to get things fixed and back up and running.

Seeing the dedication of these teenagers and the knowledge they possessed of their car made me wish I was a part of the race. I wanted to climb inside the cramped quarters of one of the cars and take it for a spin.

Sure, none of the cars had air conditioning, and the temperatures were in the 90s with high humidity, there was no real shock absorption system and the roads can get bumpy - but by golly, the complaints were few and far between, and this was something they had done, and they were proud of it. I wanted to build a solar car and race it across the country. Just to prove I could do it, or be part of a team that has the dedication to do something of that magnitude.

I also realized that these students are examples to other teenagers.

With all the negativity surrounding teens in society today, it's good to see that there are teens out front, showing the world that not all teenagers are juvenile delinquents, but that the majority of them are productive citizens with a desire to succeed.

Yes, these were some exceptional teenagers, and I hope that the teens around here will follow their example and seek out the opportunity to build their own solar car - I'm ready to pit the best of Covington County against the best of the world (and I'm ready to ride cross country and document the whole experience).