Palmer Trinity School’s solar-powered race car, an initiative created within the school’s STEAM Program by The Apollo Project, has become a popular attraction at area events such as Palmer’s International Festival, Deering Seafood Festival, and Florida Gulf Coast University’s (FGCU) Sun Chase Challenge.
But the real power of the car becomes most evident when seen through the eyes of children.
That power was on full display during The Apollo Project’s recent visit to the nearby campus of Alexander Montessori Elementary School in Palmetto Bay where students not only embraced the car, the Apollo team that shared the car and its evolution, but most importantly, its significance to the field of sustainable energy.
“The children’s enthusiasm for the car and solar power was amazing. Inspiring people – especially kids – to learn about sustainability is the most important race that our car will ever run and the children’s reaction is a dream come true,” said Owen Reynolds, PTS senior and The Apollo Project’s founder.
Possessing a lifelong passion for inventing unique contraptions, Reynolds, who grew up in a solar-powered home, was naturally intrigued with the idea of building a full-sized solar powered car. After learning about Florida Gulf Coast University’s annual SunChase Solar Challenge, in which area high-school students modify and race solar-powered go-karts, he spent a year researching the idea.
After successfully petitioning his school, he got the green light to build a team and a car — all the while dreaming that such a car might truly inspire people to think about solar power and sustainability.
Bryce Smith, also a senior at PTS and a member of The Apollo Project team, was equally inspired by the reaction among the Alexander Montessori students.
“The children could not have been nicer or more engaged, but what really captivated them was our story, what it took for the team to build something so unique, and how to overcome so many challenges,” Smith said.
Each student session began with the Apollo team presentation to explain how the team had designed and built the car, the challenges the they had to overcome before and during the race. They also touched on why sustainability is so important to their future.
The team also touted the benefits of a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) education, the importance of increasing the number of women in these fields, and how a diverse group of young people working towards a common goal can accomplish amazing things together no matter how challenging the task.
“I was particularly moved by the interest shown by the young girls in the classroom,” said PTS junior Ella Tamariz. “They were so impressed with our work and wanted to talk about how to get involved in STEAM subjects and projects.
“As the first woman to join the team, I am proud of the project but most proud of the message we are sharing about STEAM with young women all over South Florida,” she added.
The Apollo Project carries a powerful message, especially coming from young people, but it was particularly gratifying to The Apollo Project team to witness the enthusiasm among the children and to tackle their tough questions. This, along with the crowds that gathered around the car after each session, made it clear just how important the topics of solar power and sustainability are to the next generation of inventors and dreamers.
To learn more about Palmer Trinity School, visit www.palmertrinity.org. For information about Alexander Montessori School, visit www.alexandermontessori.com. For more about The Apollo Project, visit Instagram @theapolloproject_us.