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The race  is on

Students from area schools compete for bragging rights in a game that tests their ingenuity and skill

  • Students from area middle schools compete in the Solar Sprint competition at Adams Playground in Peterborough.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Rebecca Cooper, left, and Julz Simard make repairs to their Solar Sprint car between heats.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Students from area middle schools compete in the Solar Sprint competition at Adams Playground in Peterborough.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Students from area middle schools compete in the Solar Sprint competition at Adams Playground in Peterborough.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Students from area middle schools compete in the Solar Sprint competition at Adams Playground in Peterborough.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Students from area middle schools compete in the Solar Sprint competition at Adams Playground in Peterborough.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Students from area middle schools compete in the Solar Sprint competition at Adams Playground in Peterborough.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Jessica Long, left, and Hailey Guy watch their cars lieave the starting line.
  • Students from area middle schools compete in the Solar Sprint competition at Adams Playground in Peterborough.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

South Meadow School students led the way at Thursday’s annual Solar Sprint competition at Adams Playground in Peterborough, capturing first-and second-place awards in the speed category, and also winning the student’s choice award for the most creative car.

The event offers students the chance to build solar-powered cars, using a standard solar panel and motor, which they can decorate as they wish. They raced the vehicles across the width of three tennis courts, in a series of heats that had starting times determined by when the sun peeked through the cloud cover. Students from Great Brook School, Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School, Keene Middle School, Jaffrey Grade School and St. Joseph’s School in Keene also participated in the event.

“The kids learn about solar power, how things work using energy from the sun,” said Dwain Hammett, the integrated art and technology teacher at South Meadow School who advised students in his class. “It fits right in with our curriculum, talking about gear ratios, friction, weight vs. strength.”

Hammett said the Harris Center for Conservation Education has been coordinating the program for several years. He said the event encourages creativity.

“The kids have to make decisions and problem solve,” Hammett said. “There’s not always one answer to a problem. I like them to think about a solution and try it out.” He said SMS students test their cars on a small outdoor track put up a few years ago next to the school’s gym.

The fastest car, named “White Lightning,” was built and raced by SMS students Jessica Long, Jessica Scharmett and Brandon Davis. Colton Smith and Alex McCall of SMS built the second-place car.

The student’s choice award went to Hailey Guy and Morgan Carpenter, for their car “Fast Food,” which was decorated with a plastic cheeseburger and a wrapper from McDonald’s.

“I don’t know why we chose that,” Hailey said, “...we really don’t like McDonald’s food.”

Hammett said the program can have long-term impact.

“It’s basically about the kids working with their hands and feeling capable. Then they feel more confident and they’ll take more risks. This can stay with them for the rest of their lives.”

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