As part of Education Week, the doors of alternative energy opened at the Fox Creek School and a unique race took place on the streets.
The one and only 1974 Volkswagen ‘Juice Beetle’, placed second in a two car race down Kaybob Drive versus University of Calgary’s solar car ‘Schulich Axion’ on May 2.
Organized by teacher, Kevin Thesen and a 14 member Solar Car University Team, the exciting event saw the whole school body congregate to the walking path along Kaybob.
At first; students, staff and the public, had the opportunity to interact with the U of C team following a presentation and discussion on energy. Playschool to Grade 12 students were provided a hands-on opportunity to see the solar car and ask questions.
Cheerleader Alumni, known in the past as the ‘Wanna Be’s’ came back from 10 years of absence to express their school spirit for the Juice Beetle. Vice principal Tamara Czinkota, CHAMP Coordinator Sandra Hardy, librarian Leslie Ann Sharkey and teacher assistants; Jacquie Jones, Sunny Palmer and Frances Campiou, shouted cheers, wearing white shirts and FC lapels, blonde wigs and school color blue pom-poms in hand.
Nizar Walti, a member of the U of C team said, the car and its crew, toured Barrhead, Big Valley, Sherwood Park and among many other communities and schools across the province. Fox Creek was the one and only community to host a race, plus the only school in Alberta with a car to race against.
RCMP were instrumental in barricading the streets, patrolling safety and clocking the speed. Constable Harley Koehler used the radar gun to record the racing speeds. The U of C car clocked 88 km per hour and Juice Beetle, 58 km per hour. Cst. Koehler explained, with a grin, two speeding tickets, respectively could be – U of C, $247 and the school, $73.
“It was a lot of fun using the radar gun, we were happy to be a part of the race,” said Cst. Koehler. “Imagine when the kids get our age, the types of cars there will be?”
Mayor Leora MacKinnon, Councillors, neighbors out walking their dogs, parents and passerbys, stopped to witness the race and join in the fun.
“It’s almost as exciting as the Canada Day parade,” said one of the spectators.
“We made history here today,” said a staff member.
“This is a major career highlight for me,” said the driver of the U of C car. “I’ve done a lot of neat things; this is one of the best things yet!”
Kevin Thesen, the man behind Juice Beetle’s steering wheel, explained the idea for the race originated this past summer in Canmore at an A+ Energy Seminar. The U of C solar team’s car was on display and the idea to race kick started. An email sprung this spring and a date was set up to visit the community.
“A+ Energy BP were egging me on to race, all for fun – and bragging rights,” said Mr. Thesen. “I can’t thank them (U of C and A+ Energy BP) enough and the whole community, everybody. Thank-you so much.”
The creation of the Juice Beetle originally started in 2009, as a school project funded by multiple A+ Energy grants. The car was totally re-built by Mr. Thesen and a group of young men in high school. Juice Beetle was up and running by alternative energy, huge community sponsorship, from tires to parts, in June 2010.
In the past, Juice Beetle did a few laps around the school track and was showcased in the annual Canada Day parades. Now a University student, one of the schoolboys originally building Juice Beetle, Sawyer Bymoen was back for the race. “He was one of the driving forces behind the project,” said Mr. Thesen.
Mr. Thesen also said the future is bright for solar projects; as a new group of keen students is working on a new car. The details are yet to be announced.
Principal Gwen Bestard reflected on the historical day, “It was so exciting; it was like one big family – very heartwarming for all of us. Mr. Thesen was the brain child behind the day, making all the applications to secure funding. We are very pleased and very proud. It was great to see the community members come out to be a part of the day!”
The U of C race team was formed in 2004. The team’s mission, and whole mandate building and racing solar-energy cars is to engage students, create awareness and most importantly, to have fun! The team’s first car, called Soleon, took 9 months to build and was raced in Texas. The second car was named Schulich 1, and third car, Schulich Axion, took 9 months to design and another 9 months to build.
Schulich Axion’s average speed - 90 km/ hr, top speed - 130 km /hr, weight – 180 kg. The car uses the power equivalent to a blow dryer. U of C was the Top Canadian team in the World Solar Challenge and competed in the American Solar Challenge in Australia, placing 18th in 37 teams. For more information on the U of C team, check out www.calgarysolarteam.ca.
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