Ulster BOCES Career & Technical Center’s Team VoltTech students used their knowledge of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) when they competed in the National 2013 Solar Car Challenge. The students’ effort led them to victory in the advanced division of the competition and earned them special accolades for the high level of technology applied to the design and build of their car.
The Ulster County team, made up of students living in Kingston, Highland, Wallkill and Saugerties, met 13 other teams in Fort Worth, TX on July 19 to make the 1,200-mile trek to Los Angeles, CA. The students all took turns driving the car, which relied on solar power for its fuel.
The Ulster BOCES students won six out of seven daily trophies and a gigantic overall best trophy for covering the most distance in their advanced division: 241.8 miles. They also won the prestigious William Shih Award, which is presented to the solar car team that displays the highest level of technological achievement.
The six team members included Myles Harris/computer design/manufacturing technology, Chris Reffelt/welding, Brittany Fatum/early childhood education — all from the Kingston City School District; Nick Martorano/CISCO A+ computer repair from the Highland Central School District; Joe Cramer/automotive technology from the Wallkill Central School District; and Tyler Wenzel/automotive technology, a GED program student from Saugerties. They were coached by instructors Mark Harris (computer design/manufacturing technology), Noah Smith (science) and Sally Lord (graphic visual arts, print).
“I am so proud of them,” said Harris. “It was a whole learning experience. It is one thing to repair a car in a garage, but in a parking lot or on the side of the road…they just all pulled together.”
The days on the road were long and hot, but the students remained committed and worked hard. “It was rewarding working with people that you just don’t know very well and yet handle any problem as a team,” said Martorano about his role on Team VoltTech. “The best part of this experience was at the end when we received the trophy as a team; it felt like I had a whole new family.”
Team VoltTech’s vehicle relies on photovoltaic cells, which cover the top surface of the car, for its power. These cells collect energy from the sun, which is stored in the vehicle’s five lead acid batteries and fuels the electric engine.
The solar car project was a year-long, hands-on experience that immersed students in the application of complex science and technology concepts, as well as collaboration and project management. “The Ulster BOCES Automotive Technology program not only helped me learn automotive skills, but it also helped me become a better all around student,” said Cramer, citing an improvement in his grades, which are now in the high 80s.
Team VoltTech fans can review the journey the six Ulster County students embarked upon by following the team’s blog at https://volt-tech.blogspot.com/?m=1, or by clicking on the blog’s link on the Ulster BOCES Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ulsterboces.