The team — made up of 16 Cross Keys High students and adult mentors — are scheduled to depart for Texas July 12 for the Winston Solar Challenge.
A sum of around $42,000 for car parts, equipment and travel expenses is the only hold-up, team leaders said.
“We want to lead by example,” said team captain Elberth Romero, 17. “We’re [conscious of] all those other teens who might want to do this, but don’t have the opportunities we’re getting.”
The car, named Endeavour, will be the first solar-powered automobile built by high school students in Georgia upon its completion.
The Endeavour teens hail from Patrick Gunter’s Manufacturing and Material Science class.
“I’ve learned so much these past six or seven months,” said mechanical team leader Ben Smith, 16. “I’ve never actually built a car before. We’ve learned how a solar car works, structural components and making the body … it’s unreal.”
Gunter, the team advisor, is no stranger to the process. He is credited with building the first solar car in the Southeast.
The industry veteran has been teaching for the past two decades — much of his lesson plans going the way of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
“This is hands-on, STEM … not taught from a book, but through real-world experience,” Gunter said. “But, these cars don’t come cheap.”
The aforementioned cost of getting Gunter’s bunch to Texas covers a host of Endeavour’s physical make-up — upgraded motor and motor controller, suspension and brake components, tube and tires among them.
The car would be competing in the World High School division of the Winston Solar Challenge, held at the Texas Motor Speedway from July 14 to 19.
Area businesses and other entities have pitched in by extending resources and discounts. The team has been given access to facilities at the Middle Georgia College Aviation Center to construct and test the car, for example.
“We get a lot of support, but we need those remaining dollars to make it happen,” said Gunter. “I don’t like to lay guilt trips on people, but this [race] would make a significant difference in these students’ lives and lay the foundation for the others who’ll come along.”
Gunter’s pupils have accomplished quite a bit in the name of applied science. The same group of kids finished in the top 20 — out of 500 teams — in the Vex Robotics World Championship in Anaheim, Calif. earlier this year.
That feather in the cap aside, the Lone Star State is what’s currently lit up on their radar.
After Texas, the 2013 World Solar Challenge across Australia awaits.
“This has been a life-changing experience,” said Romero. “It’s a lot of work … we’ve worked hard, made some progress and hopefully, we’ll make it.”