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Solar Olympics earns environmental gold

By Alicia Craig
posted May 26, 2011

The West science club departed for the University of Green Bay on May 11 to participate in the annual Solar Olympics competition. The event, which rotates annually among UW Oshkosh, UW Stevens Point, and UW Green Bay, gave students the opportunity to test their knowledge of renewable resources, varying from wind, solar, and hydroelectric power. The event included an assortment of competitions that allowed for students to stretch their intellectual and eco-friendly muscles.

“There are a lot of events like the solar car, water heater, cooker, and solar jeopardy, which have questions about solar power, renewable energy, and thermal energy,” said science teacher Tamitha Janke.

The competition focuses on the intricacies of solar and renewable energies. Contests that occurred throughout the day included a solar marketing campaign, solar sculpture making, photography, building design, solar themed essays, community outreach, T-shirt design, and solar art challenges. Students were judged on the results of their efforts, be it creating a solar powered car or writing an essay outlining the positive effects of green enterprise. An interview processes was also conducted for each category of competition.

“It’s just a great chance for people who have a passion for the beauty of solar light as well as the use of solar energy to get together and to kind of show off what they’ve been working on,” said junior Sam Schaick. “I was in the solar photography category. I took pictures of a forest with sunlight streaming through it, and I tried to make it look really nice.”

Along with getting students involved in the aspects of the solar games that they found most appealing, event coordinators encouraged participants to try and reach out of their comfort zones and take part in areas of competition they normally would not have.

“One of our goals is to be in all the events,” said Janke. “While it’s mainly solar-based, the competition encompasses all renewable energy.”

The event provided participants an opportunity to let their academic talents shine in uniquely specified categories.

“I personally did solar building design, and I also participated in solar cooker or heater and solar jeopardy,” said junior Nik Olson. “It’s fun to do. You get to hang out with your friends and go places. There is something for everyone. It’s not just about the competition.”

One of the most popular contests was solar jeopardy, in which students from West and other area schools were quizzed in a jeopardy style format, with all questions pertaining to renewable energy and its application. Spectators gathered to watch the highly anticipated event.

“My favorite part of Solar Olympics is solar jeopardy. That was a good time. I didn’t compete but I watched and I cheered them on,” said Schaick. “It was just a good competition for people from different schools to get involved in.”

Along with solar jeopardy, another highly attended contest was the solar car race, in which schools built mini sun powered vehicles and then had them judged on their speed and design. The team from West was able to obtain first place for the decoration and appearance of their environmentally-friendly automobile.

“It’s fun to watch the solar car races,” said science teacher Heather Schilling. “Everyone’s out there cheering on their teams.”

Along with competing in various activities, students got the opportunity to tour UW- Green Bay.

“We also visited the energy efficient parts of the campus,” said Schilling. “We were there to learn about how UW Green Bay is working to become more energy-efficient.”

The students appreciated the break from school, as well as the camaraderie with other participants. Students were able to take in a large amount of information from the tour and were able to learn how to make environmentally conscious decisions in their everyday lives. For most of those who participated, Solar Olympics was an effectively educational and entertaining experience. The wide variety of events made it an appealing excursion for those involved.

“My favorite part is watching the kids soak it all in,” said Schilling. “It’s great to let them realize we have other energy available to us.”

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Olympic participants pose outside of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, on May 11, shortly after competing.

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