May 12, 2007 Five young ladies, a hot sun and three hot cars brought honor to Sts. Peter and Paul School Friday, as females captured five of the top six places in the 12th annual Junior Solar Sprint races at the Charlotte Amalie High School tennis courts.
Augmenting their winning with one male, the girls captured the top three places. Lia Fabian and Dahlia Daniel took first place; Jennifer Vante and Sarah Ann Charles took second; and Antonia Urana and William Curtis wrapped up third place. All the students are seventh- or eighth-graders.
Ten St. Croix students from three schools competed with St. Thomas students from six schools for top honors. The event was originally scheduled for St. Croix, but problems with ferry service made it impossible for the St. Thomas students to get to St. Croix for the April race.
The event teaches students a bit of science, a bit of energy conservation, aerodynamics, competitive spirit — and rewards them with more than a bit of fun.
Students are given a kit comprising the basics: a motor, a solar panel, wheels, gears and axles. The rest is up to them, and the cars showed the individual personalities. Six Montessori students, comprising three teams, sat with teacher Laura Deacon putting last-minute touches on their creations. "We used duct tape, hot glue, rubber bands, paint and wood to get our car going," said Recardo Richardson of Sonic, the car he built with partner Kai Bartlette.
"It's been a good experience for the students," said teacher Laura Deacon. "We follow some rules: No. 1, no parental involvement," Deacon said. "The students work on the cars during the day at school only. We don't want to look at a car and see something that 'Dad' has been tinkering with."
She said the cars were put together in about a week. For practice, the students raced each other at school. "That was the fun part," Richardson said. "Everybody wasn't doing his part," Richard LaRochelle said jokingly. "I can't believe you said that," Richardson replied.
Since these Montessori students were competing for the first time, they weren't expecting a flying finish against the more experienced competitors, and as it turned out, they didn't finish in the first spots. No matter. They were having too much fun just getting last-minute rubber bands around wheels that were too close to the ground, and joking with one another.
The other two teams were Nathaniel Fuller and Akyle Gumbs with Cruel Intentions, and Richard LaRochelle and Niles Eddy with Yellow Floyd, painted an appropriate bright yellow.
Event organizer Don Buchanan the V.I. Energy Office Director Bevan R. Smith Jr. had their hands full at tables set up to register the youngsters, giving last-minute advice and coaching the coaches. Volunteer Colette Monroe from Sen. Louis Hill's office, was on her hands and knees rubbing down the duct tape holding the tracks down on the tennis courts.
Buchanan was all over the place, helping the teams, talking to the media and stopping midway for an interview with TV2. "It's such a great opportunity for the students to get the feel of how solar energy works. It's really an exciting event."
The other St. Thomas schools competing were: Antilles School, All Saints Cathedral School, Addelita Cancryn Junior High School and Church of God Academy.
Awards will also be given for design. Buchanan said they will be announced Wednesday.
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