This year, 12 schools and 100 students competed April 27 in the 9th annual Racing the Sun competition, a science technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) program that challenges high school students to design, build and race solar-powered go-karts. The program is organized by the University of Arizona Tech Parks as a work-force development project.
Rosendin Electric sponsored the event for the third year, mentoring students and teaching them how to construct a solar-powered go-kart over the course of the school year. This year, the company worked with students from Independence High
School in Glendale. The Rosendin and Independence High School team placed sixth overall, and their fastest lap time was 80.219 seconds around the 1,264-meter track. Brandon Stephens, division manager at Rosendin Electric said the company is always looking for opportunities to introduce students to a potential career in electrical contracting, construction and engineering.
“We want to encourage students of all ages that there are many STEM career paths available to them, including right here in Tempe at Rosendin,” Stephens said. “We are proud to support programs like Racing the Sun as one of our many workforce development initiatives to create the Rosendin employees of tomorrow.”
Rosendin employees also bring student teams into its pre-fabrication department to introduce them to new ideas and best practices for building their go-kart. All students who compete work with teachers and mentors, spending nine months preparing for race day, according to Tech Parks Arizona.
“Along the way, they apply physics, engineering and energy,” Tech Parks Arizona’s website says. “They solve real-world problems, using mathematical, analytical and critical thinking skills.”
Students work in teams and collaborate on ideas while challenging themselves to translate their ideas into a working prototype. In this year’s competition, newer student teams modified gasoline-powered karts to run on solar energy and batteries, while teams with more experience built their go-karts from scratch, with the exception of the motor.
“Racing the Sun is a rigorous and challenging program,” Tech Parks Arizona’s website says. “The student teams must compete under a set of rules designed to promote competition fairness.”
Matt Massic, engineering instructor at Independence High School, said the program addresses a top concern facing many companies today—the lack of a skilled STEM-workforce. “The program is designed to introduce students to career pathways in STEM-based industries,” he added. “We are grateful for the support that companies like Rosendin provide, including both supporting the program generally as well as helping one of our student teams learn from some of the best in the industry.”
Other event sponsors included Tucson Electric Power, Arizona STEM, APS, Diversified Print Solutions, Musselman Honda Circuit, P3Solar, Global Solar, Bay4 Energy Services, CAID Industries, Arizona Technology Council, Arizona Science Center and SciTech Institute.