Sun and imagination shine in solar-car event

By Deborah RawsonPrint Story | Email Story
Racers, or "senders," hold cardboard over their solar panels as the start of the race is counted down. (Photo by Deborah Rawson)
PITTSFIELD — A Cheerios cereal box. A Styrofoam fast-food take out tray. Aluminum cans. They may be trash to some but were just some of the items used to create alternative-energy-powered racing vehicles for others. These miniature machines were not designed or built by the world’s leading scientists and engineers — at least not yet. They crafted by middle school students, for the fifth annual Berkshire-Hudson Area Junior Solar Sprint competition Saturday at Reid Middle School on North Street. The competition, open to students in fifth through eighth grade, drew nearly 100 participants from Adams, North Adams, Lee, Lenox, Pittsfield, Williamstown and Amenia, N.Y. Winners advanced to the Northeast JSS regional competition at the Springfield Science Museum in Springfield on Sunday, June 13. There, Berkshire-Hudson winners will compete against other middle school students from New England, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C. Berkshire Gas Co., Berkshire Bank, the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association and the U.S. Department of Energy sponsored last weekend’s event. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory manages the National Junior Solar Sprint program for the U.S. Department of Energy. The objective of the competition is to design and build vehicles that will complete a race in the shortest possible time, using available power. The requirements for the racing mobiles included using an aluminum can to act as a payload (or passenger), powering the motor using a solar panel or battery if no sun was available, and to meet size specifications. Nancy Nylen, associate director for the Pittsfield-based Center for Ecological Technology (CET) who coordinated the event and supplied solar panels to the schools, opened the competition by welcoming contestants and parents and hoping for the sun to hold out on a partly cloudy morning. “This is a national competition, so there are students in fifth through eighth grade throughout the country who are building solar cars, learning about our transportation of the future, and this is a really good time, as your parents are becoming a little bit more aware of the fuel costs of our current transportation and also the pollution of our current transportation,” Nylen said. “You are the future, and you’re learning about clean, renewable technology and the cars we drive.” When students were not racing their cars, they had to bring them to the judging table, where on-site judges interviewed the junior designers and builders on how they built their cars, the materials they used and where they came up with their ideas. Car 24, designed and built by Nick Shaw and Steve McLaughlin, eighth graders in Mr. Hess’ Technology class at Herberg Middle School, said they spent about 40 hours working on the design and construction of their car. “We built them in tech class and then we raced them and the best six from class got to come,” said Nick as the pair waited for their car to race. Another team from the tech class included Josh O’Keefe and Michael Ogulnick, who crafted Car 21 but didn’t have much luck on the first leg of the double-elimination tournament. “Our car didn’t move the first time, but we fixed it and it moves now,” Josh said with excitement, as they waited for their next turn to race. The pink “Barbie” car, officially named “Surf” by the Beach Bums team, won its first racing heat, and placed second overall in the Innovation category. The car, crafted out of parts of a Cheerios box and some foam-core paper was constructed and painted bright pink with yellow flowers by team members Briana Flynn and Jessica Russo, the senders of the car at the start of the race, and Rebecca Barry and Desiree Giardiana, the catchers of the car at the finish line (the catchers prevent the delicate instruments from crashing into the wooden backstop). The girls are students of Mr. Gaynor’s technology class at Reid Middle School. They said they learned about building, how to make things go faster and how to use the solar panel. Their favorite thing about the car? “It’s pink.” The students had batteries to use as a backup source of power in case the sun didn’t cooperate, but the sun held out and the cars ran on solar energy. There were also full-sized alternative power vehicles on hand, and music was provided by solar energy as well. “We are thrilled by the creativity and enthusiasm of so many students and that several now have the opportunity to participate in the regional event,” Nylen said. There were trophies given in four categories, including technical merit, innovation, craftsmanship and performance. Winners who advanced to the regional finals included the following” Technical Merit: first place, Conte Middle School, North Adams, Chris Mowe, Alex Segala, Jeff Vecellio, with their “Nike” car; second place, Reid Middle School, Pittsfield, Jared Houghtlin, Brian Forfa, Don Lay, Raheem Ashley, with “The Fast and the Cheddar;” third place, a tie, Reid Middle School, John Kleni, Nick Argon, for “Shrek” and Weebutuck Central School, Amenia, N.Y., Camille Roccanova. Craftsmanship: first place, Lenox Memorial Middle & High School, Michael Lane, Colin Mizia, Mac Henry, Kevin McDaniel, “SS Stormers IV;” second place, Herberg Middle School, Pittsfield, Ryan Chojnowski, Quinton Smith, John Maloney, “The Dew Machine;” third place Reid Middle School Patrick Vonberg and Michael Cross. Innovation: first place, Reid Middle School, Lauren Tremblay, “To Go #13;” second place, the Beach Bums, Reid Middle School; third place, Herberg Middle School, Dan Nesti and Justin Tatro. Speed/Performance: first place, Reid Middle School, Ross Kittle and Joe Jennings, “Revenge of the Duck;” second place, Conte Middle School, North Adams, Chris Mowe, Alex Segala and Jeff Vecellio, “Nike; third place, Reid Middle School, Patrick Sheehan, Joseph Racicot and William Wannamaker, “RAWS.”
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Silver Brewers Win Sandlot Title

Community submission
PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- The Silver Brewers captured the 2019 Papa Gino's Sandlot Championship on Sunday, Oct 13, at  Springside Park.
The league consists of 13 teams of Little League-aged players from throughout the county.
Team members, seen here, include: coach Jack Chevalier, Maxx Ferguson, manager Jason Walker, JJ Walker, Aidan Cohan, James Smith, Erik Adler, Jackson Almeida, Aidan Underdown, Luke Ferguson, Izick Wilkes, Chase Cook, Coach Bob Smith, Kevin Smith, coach Jermaine Sistrunk and coach David Ferguson.
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