September 04, 2017
The little green St. John's College (SJC) car proved that it could. It made it 152 times around a one-and-a-half-mile track, for 228 miles of coverage, and topped out at a steady 15 miles-per-hour, with no major mechanical issues at the recent Solar Car Challenge. The team returned home with the Earth Day Texas Award, which is presented to the solar car team that displays the highest level of environmental awareness. SJC's car was made with a significant number of recycled parts.
Additionally, on the last day of racing, the winning team for the penultimate day, the Iron Lions, which won the Chris Jones Award, donated their trophy to the Bahamian squad in a show of sportsmanship.
The Chris Jones Award is presented to the solar car team displaying the highest level of good sportsmanship.
"They were proud that we were able to make it to the event, that we passed our testing as a first year team, and that we were able to make it through the entire four days," said Father Shazz Turnquest, project leader.
The Green Lightning team from SJC was the first team from the Caribbean to participate in the event at the Texas Motor Speedway in Dallas, Texas, and managed to pass scrutineering. More than 10 teams did not do so, and were not allowed to participate during the race days.
The eight-member SJC team, comprised of Kevaughn Pratt, Richard Hanna, Marcinko Arthur, Justyn Sweeting, Munir Gharbharan, Geovannie Embleton, Dwayna Archer and Deniel Rolle, was tasked with designing and building a full-sized solar car from scratch. With very little tools, scrap parts from golf carts donated by The Ministry of Works and lots of determination, the team built the 'little green lightning that could' under a mango tree on the school's premises. Even though there were challenges throughout the process, Turnquest said the adventure was worth the anxiety.
Pratt, a 12th grade student, described the experience as amazing.
"I learned so much about logistics, organization, mechanical systems and electrical components, said the deputy team leader. "Something of this nature takes a lot of determination to complete, and after seeing the level of professionalism displayed, I am motivated to become an intern for the next year's race. I wish every student had the same opportunity that I had to participate in something similar."
The team's first challenge was to have the car shipped over 2,000 miles to Texas. Hanna's Shipping, transported the car via boat from New Providence to West Palm Beach approximately two weeks before the race. However, the ground transportation company took the wrong shipping crate from the West Palm Beach container port, and the car was essentially missing for six days. The team had a lot of uncertainty as to whether the car would actually arrive in time for the race.
Turnquest said when the team arrived in Texas, everyone was happy to discover that the shipping crate had been delivered to the site the same day they had arrived, with the intervention of Dr. Brent Dragoo and the team at Liberty Christian School, Texas. Apart from a few loose wires, the car arrived completely intact.
Three days before competition, it was all hands on deck as the team had to ensure that the car passed all six of its scrutineering tests. While the car easily passed four of the tests on the first day, the team faced a number of challenges in passing the stringent electrical and mechanical tests.
Turnquest said a number of teams lent the SJC squad tools to do the repairs, and shared their expertise in helping the team address their issues. Again the Liberty Christian School stepped in to help them sort out a pesky turning signal relay.
The team from Walnut School, out of California, helped the SJC squad resolve some of its mechanical issues, and helped with the team members' welding.
"On the final day of scrutineering, with only a few hours left on the last day, we thankfully managed to resolve all of the issues and were given the green light to race," said Turnquest.
In addition to scrutineering, the team also had to produce a scrapbook and complete a 10-minute presentation before a panel of judges. Teams were awarded up to four bonus laps for successfully completing the component. The SJC team was awarded the four bonus laps for their efforts.
"I am so proud as an alumni of SJC to have been able to afford my students the opportunity to not only race this car but to engage in project-based learning at such a very high level. This is the type of exposure for our kids that we teachers live for," said Turnquest.
SJC Principal Dr. Nevillene Evans said she was proud of the squad's behavior and performance.
"They rose to the occasion and they were able to compete at a very high level and displayed excellent sportsmanship and collegiality. We accomplished much, in true Giant fashion."
The SJC team is home and has returned to school for the new academic year, but its car is still in transit to New Providence.
The Solar Car Challenge is the top project-based STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) initiative helping motivate students in science, engineering and alternative energy. The SCC Education Program was developed as a high school extracurricular program and evolved into the Solar Car Challenge Foundation.
The end product of each 15-month education cycle is the Solar Car Challenge: a closed track event at the Texas Motor Speedway, or a cross country event designed to give students an opportunity to show the product of their efforts
"We are grateful to everyone who sponsored us, especially our title sponsors, ALIV and all those corporate entities; SJC alumni; private citizens; parents and even students who donated their lunch money to our effort. We are excited that, thanks to a donation by Huawei, a short documentary is being developed to chronicle our journey. It is our hope that once the documentary is released, other students will be inspired to undertake similar renewable energy projects," said Turnquest.
He was also grateful to the Bahamians residing in the Dallas area who came out to support them, including Sean Smith, who hosted the team to a dinner and pool party at his home, as well as CEO of the Beck Group, Fred Perpall, and his family for also hosting the team to dinner.
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