The Victorian Model Solar Vehicle Challenge began in 1990 as a solar powered model car race and has been held in October each year ever since. A boat race was added to the program in 1994, aimed principally at primary school students.
To compete in the challenge participants must build a solar power model boat or car that conforms to the specifications for that year and then race them using only power generated from solar panels. In addition to the model they are required to complete a poster on solar technologies and the older students in the student designed car class must also address a panel whom will ask questions about the design and construction of their cars.
One of the aims of the Model Solar Vehicle Challenge is to provide a wider group of school aged participants with a fun engineering experience that links the science based curriculum they undertake in their classrooms with a real life experience. The challenge hopes to encourage team members to participate in, and subsequently become more interested in, learning about science and technology that cover areas such as alternative energies and all areas of vehicle design and manufacture. Through the challenge experience, students are able to see a practical use for their studies and this has been shown to lead on to the study of science, engineering and advanced technologies at university.
There are three different class of vehicles currently eligible to compete:
- Model Solar Boats with races for primary and secondary students in two divisions, Junior and Advanced.
- Student Designed Model Solar Cars, mainly aimed at secondary students but open to primary aged students as well.
- The Sheridan Kit Car Challenge, designed as an intermediate step between the boat and car classes.
As the popularity of the challenge has grown a National level event was introduced in 1993 with teams from each state level event selected to compete against each other and other invited international participants. At the national level participants are normally drawn from the states top 4 or 5 vehicles in the student designed car class and from both of the junior and advanced boat divisions, along with wildcards.
The Victorian Model Solar Vehicle Challenge association is a group of volunteers who work tirelessly to ensure that 'The Challenge' is held every year at Scienceworks. The association will conduct Professional Development sessions (where possible) for teachers and students and can provide large amounts of support material. If you are interested in these services or in the association itself please contact us.