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Choctaw Central High School Solar Car Team

Choctaw Central High School Solar Car Team


While other teenagers were out having fun during the summer months, the Choctaw Central High School Solar Car Project Team was hard at work at the Occupational Training Center. These students built a battery box in the solar car, wired and rewired the thirty new lithium ion batteries, added a new battery monitoring system, revamped the driver canopy, tested tires, and test drove the vehicle. They programmed the race route into the computer, diagramed the electrical system for scrutineering, and practiced safety maneuvers in preparation for the upcoming Hunt-Winston Solar Car Challenge in July.
The Hunt-Winston Solar Car Challenge is the product of the Winston Solar Education program and includes both track and cross-country races. The 2010 race was a cross-country race beginning on July 18 at the Texas Motor Speedway in Ft. Worth, Texas and ending on July 25 at the University of Colorado in Boulder. A total of 12 solar powered vehicles from across the nation participated in the race. These cars were divided into three divisions, Advanced, Open, and Classic. Tushka Hashi III, the CCHS solar car, competed in the Advanced Division.

The concept of working as a team began with the months of work on the solar car and crystallized during the race. Every person had a responsibility and those responsibilities varied daily. At the team meeting each night, the Co-Captains, team members, and mentors Joey Long, Liddia Hughes, and Frankie Germany made decisions about who had each responsibility for the following day. The three girls were the drivers, but when not driving, they also had jobs such as safety person, judge liaison, and navigator. The boys were in charge of safety, judge liaison, auxiliary battery preparation, radios, and general maintenance on the vehicle. By the end of the trip, the team had become such a cohesive unit that the mentors had little to decide; the team took care of it on their own. These students took ownership of the entire project and race and became mature and responsible young adults. This was only one of the many benefits of the solar car experience.


Tasha Laird, one of the Co-Captains, said she learned much more than just the science of mechanical or electrical engineering. “The experiences of meeting the public, speaking to strangers, developing self-confidence, and working as a team are some of the most important parts of the solar car experience. I know this has helped me to prepare for college,” she said.

During the race, all teams were required to stop at designated towns for a morning break, lunch, and an afternoon break before reaching the daily destination. At these towns, Chambers of Commerce, clubs and organizations often had water and refreshments for the team as they displayed the cars for the public. News reporters and radio personalities interviewed the teams. Kursten Watkins and Joey Long were on live radio for approximately fifteen minutes at a lunch stop in Hereford, Texas. Kursten impressed the crowd with the confidence and composure of a television anchor woman while on the radio.

Tushka Hashi III received a great deal of attention at each stop due to its aerodynamic design and the fact that it was the first car to reach each destination. As a result, the team members were asked all manner of questions about the car and the race. Zach Renville, Chris Watkins, and Josh Farmer all became adept at answering questions while putting kindergarten children into the seat of the car for photo opportunities. The students handed out over 600 Tushka Hashi III brochures in five states, informing all who saw the car and read the brochure about the unparalleled solar car program at CCHS and proving the intelligence and expertise of these dedicated young ambassadors for the Tribe.

One reporter was amazed that words like acid battery, lithium ion battery, wattage, amperes, and auxiliary batteries are a part of these students’ everyday vocabulary. Just another plus for this program.

Co-Captains Trisilla Willis and Tasha Laird and the team of Kursten Watkins, Chris Watkins, Zach Renville, and Josh Farmer fulfilled the team’s goal and dream since the car was built in 2007; to win the race. All the hard work, perseverance, and dedication were rewarded when the race results came in. The Tushka Hashi III team drove the 853.5 mile race in a total of 24.5 hours with an average speed of 35 miles per hour. They were the only team in all divisions to complete all the miles and with the fastest time of any vehicle in the race, giving them the distinction of becoming the 2010 National High School Solar Car Champions. This honor brings with it the opportunity to participate in the World Solar Car Race which takes place in Australia in 2011.

Not only did the team win the overall championship, they won the day trophy every day of the race for being the first car to reach the daily destination, the Hunt Award for Engineering Excellence, and an Appreciation Award for Excellent Team Spirit. Co-Captain Trisilla Willis was awarded The Order of the Solar Cell, presented to extremely special people who believe in high school solar car racing and the students who make it happen. These exceptional students represented the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians with pride and honor and deserved all the accolades received.

“This is awesome!” exclaimed Trisilla Willis, Co-Captain and driver, as she claimed the five foot tall trophy for the team. “What a great way to end my solar car career!” She has been a team member for four years and this was her final race. Immediately upon returning to Choctaw, she was off to basic training for the Army National Guard.

Team members and mentors alike agreed that this was the most exciting race they have participated in. The community support shown and the surprise welcome home reception were highlights in an exhausting yet satisfying fourteen day trip. The team is now looking to the future, with trips to visit the Seminole Tribe in Florida to introduce those students to solar energy and robotics, another solar race in Houston, Texas in April, and who knows, maybe even a trip to the Australian outback in 2011!

This story was written by Frankie Germany


The History of the Hunt-Winston School Solar Car Challenge
In 1993, the Winston Solar Car Team launched an education program to provide curriculum materials, on-site visits, and workshop opportunities for high schools across the country. This program, a part of The Winston School (Dallas, TX), was designed to motivate students in the sciences, engineering, and technology. The end product of each two-year education cycle is the Winston Solar Challenge: a closed-track event at the Texas Motor Speedway, or a cross country race designed to give students an opportunity to display their work. The Winston Solar Education Program has been shared with more than 900 schools in 20 countries.

The first Challenge in 1995 attracted ninety schools leading to nine schools actually building cars for the 1995 race. Three cars qualified to run. The 1997 Challenge grew to over three hundred fifty schools in five countries. Eight cars qualified to run the 1997 race, a 600-mile cross-country event from Dallas to San Antonio. The 1999 race, a 1600 mile event from Dallas to Los Angeles, saw eight teams enjoy the fun of high school solar car racing. The 2001 race started in Round Rock, TX at Dell Computers and traveled 1400 miles to Columbus, Indiana. In 2003, ten challengers endeavored to race from Round Rock, TX to the Florida Solar Energy Center (Cocoa, FL).

In 2009, the Hunt Oil Company accepted the role as "Title Sponsor" for the Winston Solar Challenge. The Hunt-Winston School Solar Car Challenge now hosts annual events based on the support of the Hunt Oil Company, The Winston School, The Texas State Energy Conservation Office, and the Texas Motor Speedway.
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