School’s solar success

Balaklava High School is teaming up with UniSA in an exciting new initiative that will see an integrated learning program developed for staff and students to build a solar car at the school.

In the joint venture agreed upon last week, staff and students from UniSA’s schools of Art Architecture & Design, Engineering, Information Technology and Mathematical Science, will provide the design and construction guidance for Balaklava High students, with the aim of having a solar car ready for the 2023 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.

VET teacher, and design and tech studies coordinator at Balaklava High, Richard Thomas, said he was looking forward to the project and the learning process for everyone involved.

“I thought, how can we, as a school, best utilise what we have here, particularly in the STEM area (science, technology, engineering and maths) and help the students at the same time,” Richard said.

He contacted UniSA and the solar car project was flagged, the first time the university has partnered a school on this type of project since about 1999.

“I commend Balaklava High School on the initiative – the World Solar Challenge is unashamedly difficult, but the journey of getting a car to the starting line, let alone the finishing line, is incredibly rewarding, so we look forward to being able to help the school experience that journey,” Associate Professor Peter Pudney, who has had a long association with the World Solar Challenge, said.

“There is certainly a lot to consider with developing one of these cars, but other schools have done it, and Balaklava students will learn an incredible amount from the process.”

Assoc Prof Pudney will join a team of UniSA academics, led by Professor Peter Majewski, who will collaborate with Richard and Maths/STEM co-ordinator, David Szular, to develop a program of integrated education around the challenge.

Richard said he and the ‘mover and shaker’ of STEM, David, are working together on an integrated student-learning program to involve all facilities and the community.

“We are taking a whole school approach, involving all areas of the curriculum, along with support from the wider community,” Richard said.

“We want to teach STEM skills in an integrated and hands-on manner, and this is an ideal way to do so.

“UniSA will help with the technicalities, etc and we can put it into practice, writing the Australian curriculum around what the students are learning, whether it be solar in tech, measuring distances in maths, electrics in science – everything can be integrated into the learning.”

“We believe building a solar car is the perfect way to bring so many disciplines and ideas together into one project, and above all, provide an enjoyable learning experience.”

Richard and David said a team of year eight to 10 students in 2020, will form the ‘control group’ for the 2023 challenge, with support from enthusiastic staff and other students along the way.

The project will cost in the vicinty of $50-60,000, and to reach the target, the school is looking to fundraise, along with grants and sponsorship from any keen businesses.

Richard said they would also welcome help from keen car enthusiasts who might like to volunteer their time working on the car.

“We will be in the adventure class in the challenge, and will build a two-seater car, with a design in by the end of the year,” Richard said.

“We will travel from Darwin to Adelaide at around 100km/h and need to keep up with regular traffic as we share the roads.”

To see what’s involved, students have been invited to observe this year’s Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, which will see UniSA compete in the cruiser class.