Secondary and preparatory school students from Zapopan, Jalisco, have designed and built three highly-efficient solar-powered vehicles. But they’re not done yet: an airplane may be next.
The 11 students at the private school SuBiré were part of a school-wide project to research how solar power can be transformed into motive power.
The project’s guidelines established that the vehicle must reach a speed of 40 kilometers per hour and travel for more than two hours. The resulting prototypes surpassed everyone’s expectations, said the school principal.
“The vehicles have exceeded speeds of 100 kilometers per hour, have a range of more than four hours and they’re being powered 100% by solar energy . . . These vehicles cost less than 50,000 pesos and the students are ready to patent their designs. They’ve also been given the chance to have official license plates on them, enabling the vehicles to travel freely,” said Julio César Saucedo de la Llata.
“The best laboratory, for me, are my students. We approached several technological disciplines like robotics and 3D-printing. [The students] had to learn to use tools and machinery to build several car parts, including a chassis. They also learned about photovoltaics, the inner workings of a motor and that there are several kinds,” said the students’ science and robotics professor.
The youths also had to research how many effective sunlight hours they had available in Zapopan — which turned out to be six per day — and how to collect radiation at night, added Luis Armando Martínez.
The students’ research and development project takes on greater importance when one considers that Guadalajara — Zapopan lies within its metropolitan area — is the most motorized city in Latin America, and that in the near future it could face pollution issues worse than those experienced in Mexico City.
While a gasoline-powered car harnesses only 60% of its fuel, a solar powered vehicle harnesses 95% of the energy it receives.
The most important lesson for the students was to have confidence in themselves: “At the beginning we were skeptical . . . but we learned a great deal about techniques, mechanics, physics and chemistry. A lot of teamwork and cooperation was needed,” said Gabriel Montijo, 17, who after the experience has decided to become a biomedical engineer.
“It took six months to build the car. Four months were dedicated to design, all the technicalities and calculations”, said Eduardo Méndez, 17, who plans to pursue a career in computational systems once he completes preparatory school.
“The students’ creation could transform the automotive industry,” said the school principal. And that’s not all: “They’re also planning to design a solar-powered passenger plane.”
“Education in Mexico must shift from being a purely theoretical discipline to a more pragmatic one, enabling youths to start their own enterprises,” said Saucedo de la Llata.
Source: Excélsior (sp)