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Solar Rollers

Posted 05/12/2017 by Morgan VandeRiet

Advanced Robotics students make alterations on their solar-powered robot for the Solar Rollers competition. photo by Morgan VandeRiet

After their journey to Houston for the Globals competition, TJ’s Pathways Robotics students are finishing the year with a unique project.

TJ’s Pathways Robotics is working on their last competition of the year: Solar Rollers. It is an award-winning competition for high school students in which teams design, build, and race solar-powered remote control cars. On Saturday May 13th, the team will head to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to race against other registered teams in the Denver area.

Just in time after the team competed in the First Robotics Challenge (FRC) globals competition in Houston, Texas, Solar Rollers is a perfect project for the end of the semester. “It’s something completely new and different that was presented to us, so we really wanted to get involved with something new,” explained Pathways Robotics teacher Matthew Santambrogio. The TJ Solar Rollers team received their materials kit for the competition earlier in the semester and were able to begin preparing for the challenge. Additionally, the team was granted access to the Solar Rollers Online Course, which guides the team through the designing, building, testing, and racing processes. “It is more simple than robots we have built for previous competitions, but it is much more delicate than any other robots we have made,” senior Colton Hook explained. “It is also solar powered, and the competition is more of a race rather than having the robot perform specific tasks,” added senior Natan Getschel.

The day of the competition, the Trophy Race takes place, which includes seven competitions. These competitions include 20 Questions (a team quiz judged by photovoltaic (PV) engineering and energy experts), Overall Top Speed, PV-Direct Top Speed (top speed using direct sunlight only), PV-Direct Circuit Race (full-track road race using sunlight only), Main Circuit Race (teams have 30 minutes to statically precharge in the sun before running a 60-minute road endurance race), Fastest Lap, and Overall (the accumulation of points for placing in any of the other six events). Through these events, the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students learn the format of a complete energy system comprising of generation, storage, efficient, and reliability. This most importantly sparks an interest in these students to find energy solutions on a larger scale following high school.

After the team’s successful regionals competition and their journey to the globals competition, TJ Robotics is excited to finish the year with one more challenge. “We have not taken part in [Solar Rollers] before, but it’s a new opportunity to do something different, something we haven’t done previously,” explained Getschel.