More than 500 students throughout Florida converged May 1 at UCF’s Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) in Cocoa to compete in the day-long competition that showcased student projects in alternative fuel technologies.

Events included the Bright House Solar Energy Cookoff, a solar cooker design and cooking contest; the Junior Solar Sprint, model-size solar car races; the High School Hydrogen Sprint, model-size hydrogen-powered car races; and Energy Innovations, a full-scale solar electric design challenge.

The Bright House Solar Energy Cookoff challenged students to design and build solar cookers, and also cook a recipe of their own creation in their oven. Students’ creative dishes were judged on taste, ingredients and creativity.

One of the most popular events is the Junior Solar Sprint, where students in grades 6-8 design, construct and race solar-powered vehicles. This hands-on competition encourages scientific know-how, creative thinking, experimentation and teamwork. Awards were given based on vehicle design, quality of craftsmanship, innovation and vehicle speed. This year, 63 teams competed.

“Clear skies and improved car designs made for a speedy race,” said Susan Schleith, education coordinator at FSEC. Teams had at least two opportunities to demonstrate their vehicles’ performance in the double elimination format. One of the top cars was clocked at 6.7 meters per second, or 15 mph.

The Hydrogen Sprint, a competition for high school students in grades 9-12, allows students to design, build and race model-sized cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells. This competition exposes students to hydrogen’s potential as an alternative fuel source and also gives graduates of the Junior Solar Sprint program an opportunity to continue designing and building alternative-fueled vehicles. Participating teams also gave 10-minute presentations demonstrating their understanding of hydrogen.

The Energy Innovations program is a full-scale solar electric design and marketing challenge for middle and high school students. Each team designed and constructed a product or artistic work fully powered by photovoltaic panels, more commonly known as solar electric panels. Teams also created marketing pieces, such as brochures, fliers, and posters, to accompany their products.

“It’s impressive to see student teams creating projects that will benefit others in time of need,” said Penny Hall, event coordinator of the EnergyWhiz Olympics, referring to the Emergency Medical Cooler designed by Orlando’s Olympia High School in response to Haiti’s recent earthquake.

For competition results, click here.

The Florida Solar Energy Center, a research institute of the University of Central Florida, is the largest and most active state-supported energy research institute in the nation. Current divisions and their research activities include Advanced Energy Research: alternative transportation systems, hydrogen fuel and fuel cells; Buildings Research: energy-efficient buildings; and Solar Energy: solar water and pool heating and solar electric and distributed generation systems. For more information about the center, visit or call the FSEC Public Affairs Office at 321-638-1015.