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Racing the Sun: Junior Solar Sprint Takes Off

April 3, 2009 – The 14th annual Junior Solar Sprint provided an exciting, fun and educational way for junior high students to learn about solar energy Friday at Sunny Isle Shopping Center.
More than 100 students from 18 schools entered, racing model solar-powered cars they built from kits donated by the Virgin Islands Energy Office, which sponsored the event.
Jakesha Descartes, a 14-year-old from St. Peter and Paul, summed up the lesson, saying, “Photons from the sun hit the panels on the cars and gives energy to the engine that powers the car.”
St. Peter and Paul team member Cassandra Watson said the races were exciting.
“I am so happy,” said Watson after winning her first heat.
Gov. John P. deJongh walked thought the crowd Friday giving support to the students and looking at their cars. He also got first-hand experience about what the event was about as he sat at the finish line as a time keeper for a couple of the races.
“I am supportive of the kids at anything fun and educational,” said deJongh. “It all builds knowledge of solar energy. They see the potential use of solar energy in the Virgin Islands. There are a lot of potential engineers here. ”
Raiyna Lanclos, age 12, a student at St. Peter and Paul on St. Thomas, sees the big picture. She says she has learned the longterm affect of using fossil fuel saying, “It's a real world problem that we need to fix.”
The excitement was evident with the students bouncing around and nervously waiting for their turns on the six-lane, 66-foot track set up in the Wendys' parking lot.
Kasim Andrews, program monitor at the Energy Office and race starter, kept the students moving at the starting line. With an ongoing monologue, he kept them prepared on the starting line and ready to go when the sun was at its brightest.
Arthur A. Richards Junior High took first and second in the speed category with Free Will Baptist taking third and Antilles School placing fourth. St. Peter and Paul took home first, second and third in design with Antilles getting fourth place.
At the end of the afternoon, after students had enjoyed lunch at Wendy's, an award ceremony was held.
Director Bevan R. Smith of the Energy Office complimented all the participates on their efforts. He said he was pleased with all the different designs that he saw, but added that he was saddened that some participates had problems that more preparation might have overcome.
Although the event is sponsored by the V.I. Energy Office, which is under the governor's office, Energy Office spokesman Don Buchanan said the event is a team effort with many government agencies working together. He said the Department of Education supplies transportation for the students; Department of Public Works supplies barricades and the Fire Services hoses off the site the evening before the race to make sure the track area is smooth. He added that workers from the Department of Natural Resources had volunteers who helped set up the event.

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