Cross Keys High School engineering teacher Patrick Gunter told students May 22 they need to be prepared to work 50 hours a week, from Tuesday through Saturday, if they want to finish building their car in time for the Solar Car Challenge.
Gunter, who has been working at Cross Keys a little more than a year, said each week until July 12 he is prepared to be in his classroom 7 a.m.-10 p.m. and he expects the same from members of DeKalb County 2012 Solar Car team.
“We just completed the molds and we’re getting ready to lay out our carbon fiber in the molds. We’ll be working with Delta and some different companies to use the molds to build the body of the car,” Gunter said.
The solar car team is made up of students throughout the DeKalb County School District who are members of the DeKalb County Engineering and VEX Robotics teams. Gunter said the solar car team held its first meeting May 2.
The team is working out of the competitive events center at Georgia Tech and students from Tech’s Solar Jackets car team are walking the DeKalb County students through the process of building a solar racing car.
Originally, the team was scheduled to compete in a cross-country solar car race but Gunter said the founders of the Solar Car Challenge, which began in 1993, decided this year not to make the race cross country.
“It was going to be a cross-country race but with the uncertainty involving gas prices they decided to change that,” Gunter said.
Gunter, who has traveled cross country in a solar car he built, said usually a team has to have multiple vehicles, including the solar car, a large truck pulling trailers and a car or SUV for team members to travel in.
“Could you imagine traveling 1,600 miles with three vehicles doing a cross-country for two weeks? It would be very expensive—I’ve done that before,” Gunter said. “They’ve put that on the back burner until the gas situation and the economy gets a little bit better.”
Instead of doing an expensive cross country tour, which Gunter said would limit a lot of high school teams from participating this year, the race will be held at the Texas Motor Speedway. The team will race for three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon, over a period of four days.
Gunter said last year, the firs-place team finished with approximately 5,000 laps. As Gunter discussed the logistics of seatbelts and what type of harnesses the solar car would need, brothers Elvis and David Chu stood in the back of the classroom listening.
“I have strong ties with this school and stay close with a lot of teachers. I come back every once in a while and visit and see and check up on everything,” David said. He graduated from Cross Keys in 2006 and his brother in 2008.
David recently graduated from Southern Polytechnic University in Marietta with a degree in mechatronics engineering and was at the meeting to offer his expertise and work with the students.
“I heard they were doing this through Facebook and by following along with the Cross Keys Foundation. What better way to help out than this?” David said.
Over the past year, through grants and donations from the Cross Keys Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps students enrolled in the high school’s attendance zone, enrollment in its technology and engineering program has increased.
Gunter’s classroom, built as a new addition several years ago, is filled with robots and machinery that have either been donated or purchased by the school district. The DeKalb County VEX Robotics Team, which is based out of Gunter’s classroom at Cross Keys, was recognized as the 2011-12 tournament champions last year.
“This entire room right here was not here when I was going to Cross Keys. This is all brand new to us. I wish they would have had this while I was here. I would have learned so much more and school would have been so much easier for me,” Elvis Chu said, pointing around Gunter’s classroom. Elvis is in his senior year studying engineering at Southern Polytechnic.
“For whoever has joined this club and they go to college and have to take these classes again it will make it much easier,” Elvis said.
In addition to the Chu brothers, Gunter has enlisted the help of several volunteers including Gilbert Rodriguez, an engineer at AT&T whose son is on the engineering team.
“I’m very excited to be participating in this. I’ve never done anything like this before,” Rodriguez said.
“I’m finding that a lot of the alumni really want to give back to the school and that’s the best way to do it. The only way we’re going to get this car completed is to put a lot of man hours in,” Gunter said.
The solar car team is relying primarily on donations for building the car and its trip to Texas. Their progress can be followed at www.solarcar2012.com.