July 26, 2018 500 AM
PRESIDIO – Presidio High School’s solar car racing team placed fourth in this year’s Solar Car Challenge.
Five students from the PHASCar (which stands for Presidio High Aficionados of Solar Car) Racing Team and four adult sponsors spent the last week and a half completing against other teams from all over the country.
The Solar Car Challenge is a STEM Initiative project that encourages science, engineering and alternative energy. Students are to plan, design, engineer, build and race a street-legal car that is runs on solar during the year-round program. The race track alternates each year between a closed track at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth or takes them across the country. This year’s challenge was a seven-day trek from Fort Worth to Palmdale, California. Each team was judged by how many miles and how much time it took to drive to their daily destination.
Team Captain Michael Harris said the team had to gather the materials themselves to build the car from scratch, which can be challenging in Far West Texas. During three school periods and some time after school, the team build a car named Blue Devil 2.1 that was 9 feet by 4.5 feet by 13 feet in size. While it took awhile for their materials to arrive, the team received help from sponsors who either donated money or their time. Sponsors included Presidio ISD, Dennis McEntire, Chris Montgomery of Weatherford, Jose Saenz of Harper Hardware, Rogelio Galindo of RG Welding Oilfield Services, Aurellano Ramirez of Poncho’s Pizza, Dan and Bernadette McEntire, Atticus and Phoenix Fleming and R & E Apartments.
During the race, the teachers – head sponsor Rolando Gloria, electrical sponsor Ian Dolino, mechanical sponsor Jesus Zubia and Elsa Gloria – were discouraged from intervening in the project, so it was the students who made the decisions and strategies. Harris said they did receive suggestions from the teachers, but it was ultimately the students – Harris, Co-captain Jose Gabaldon, Rogelio Galindo, Miguel Campos and Cassandra Urias – who made the final decisions and who drove the car. They didn’t always agree though.
“We didn’t always agree with the same plan,” said Harris.
Gabaldo said it was pretty awesome driving during the race, but it was also exhausting and sometimes scary sharing the road with the semi-trucks. There were protections in place to keep each student driver safe. Each race day required eight hours of driving in the summer heat in the desert, and being tall, Gabaldo’s knee would start to hurt. He said it was fun though.
“You’re driving on the highway. Nothing compares to that” said Gabaldo.
It was a different feeling for him because the car he was driving was one he helped build. Galindo and Campos also took turns driving.
Before the race, the team had to endure three scrutineering days that ensured the car was ready to hit the road. PHASCar was the second team to pass all the inspections with “flying colors” in one and a half days. Most teams took all three days to pass their inspections. Two teams didn’t pass.
On that first day of racing, the Presidio team ranked sixth place and slowly inched their way to fourth place, winning a trophy to take home at the awards ceremony.
“The race was tiring and tough but crossing that finish line was very rewarding,” said Harris.
“One of our goals is to race,” said Gloria. “Being in the top five is a bonus.”
This is the fourth year Presidio High School has participated in this challenge through a recommendation from Superintendent McEntire, who recently retired from a long career at Presidio ISD. The team only raced during the last day during their first year in 2015 and placed second to last. They were unable to race the following year due to a mechanical problem. Last year, the team competed at Texas Motor Speedway where they placed seventh place. This year’s fourth place win showed Rolando Gloria improvement with the students.
“Our hard work paid off,” said Gloria.
Gloria hopes the challenge is something the students will be proud of in the future. To him, it builds confidence as well as help the students build their resume for college applications and if they pursue STEM-related courses.
Now that the race is over, the team returned to Presidio to enjoy what Harris referred to as a moment to sleep in peace. Gloria will not be part of the team next year as he’s moving to Midland, but he’s still thinking of next year’s race.
“There’s no rest for this team” said Gloria.
Dolino and Zubia will continue to help the students, but they will need sponsors. For anyone interested in sponsoring the PHASCar team to race at Texas Motor Speedway in the Solar Car Challenge 2019, please email Dolino and Zubia at [email protected] and [email protected] respectively.