Hopewell Robotics Group Takes Top Prize at Solar Jam 2017, Represents Mercer County at Regionals

After taking first and second place again this year in the Middle School Division of the 2017 Oasis (Organizing Action for Sustainability in School) Solar Jam held on May 21st at Princeton High School, ARRRGH (Awesome Remarkable Rocket Robotics Group of Hopewell) moved on from the local race to compete in the Inter-County Regional Competition last month going against solar powered cars from all over the state of New Jersey. The team, which is comprised of Hopewell area kids from 3rd-7th grade, represented Mercer County in the regional race this year.

The Junior Solar Sprints program is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) competition that engages students to design, build and race solar-powered model cars.

After months of building, testing and experimentation, students compete in divisional races for the fastest, and best-engineered vehicles powered only by the sun. The winners from local division races go on to compete against the best of the best at Junior Solar Sprints Inter-County Finals, which took place on Monday May 22 at Ridgedale High School in Florham Park, NJ.  Hopewell 4H Robotics club, ARRRGH placed in the top 20 for speed, with over 70 teams competing.

Every car in the race had to use the same solar panel and motor, but the students could innovate on the chassis, transmission, and wheels. ARRRGH spent weeks of planning and choosing materials and motors, and researching the location of the sun on the day of the race to determine the exact angle which they would mount their solar panel.  Although some parameters are given to participants, such as a standard solar panel and car size, students build their car using a variety of materials, wheel configurations, and motors that they hope will allow their car to hold tight on the guide wire and be first to the finish.

Although ARRRGH took first place overall in last year’s Solar Jam Race as elementary division entrants, beating out the teams entered in the middle school division as well, the team realized the level of complexity had greatly jumped this year. To accommodate for the increased competition, they decided to enter six cars instead of two — three in the elementary division and three in the middle school division — and were changing solar panels over multiple cars during the race. Ultimately, two of ARRRGH’s cars in the middle school division won awards.

Team mentor and Hopewell resident Ray Chin was pleased with the way this year’s competition turned out, saying “The kids had a lot of fun and it was a great experience for everyone. Our success was due to the team’s skillful engineering and strategic coordination between our elementary and middle school members.”

After learning of his team’s win at regionals, Nick Pollara, also of Hopewell and lead mentor for ARRRGH cried, “Aye Matey, we fought long and hard and in the end, tossed them all back in the sea!”


TEAM PHOTO: Pictured in photo from left are ARRRGH members: Ben Pollara, Cameron Chin, Angelo Guarino, Cormac Wilenius, Max Pollara, Sophia Chin and Elizabeth Downie. Team mentors are Ray Chin, Scot Pannepacker and Nick Pollara. Not pictured: mentors Matt Guarino and Bruce Downie

PRINCETON SOLAR JAM 2017: Pictured with 2nd place car from left, Elizabeth Downie and Sophia Chin, and Angelo Guarino holding 1st place car.

AT JSS Inter-County Finals in Florham Park: ARRRGH Reps pictured Sophia Chin, Cameron Chin, Angelo Guarino

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