News / Science & Technology

Prototype Solar Cars Train Future Alternative Energy Experts

Prototype Solar Cars Train Future Alternative Energy Expertsi
X
December 19, 2013 9:52 AM
In South Africa, students at the University of Johannesburg have taken on the challenge of building their own solar cars and racing them in competitions. As VOA's Emilie Iob reports from Johannesburg, the goal behind the racing thrill is to train future experts in alternative energy

Prototype Solar Cars Train Future Alternative Energy Experts

In South Africa, students at the University of Johannesburg have taken on the challenge of building their own solar cars and racing them in competitions. While it offers plenty of thrills, the goal behind the program is to train future experts in alternative energy.
 
Young engineers from the University of Johannesburg built a 300-kilogram solar-powered car. The car can go faster than 100 kilometers per hour and uses less electric power than a household kettle. The students who designed it will drive it in the Solar Challenge, a national racing competition for cars that use alternative energy.
 
Kegan Smith, the university's former project manager, says the aim is to make these future engineers aware of the possibilities of green energy through a real world example.
 
"With what we do at the moment in fossil fuels, if we continue like this, there is not going to be a future. And if we do this kind of alternative energy, the cars are one application. But the nice thing with the cars it that it's a mindset change. If you can start shaping students' mind now, it's going to change the mindset of people in general. How do you use your lights? How do you use your electricity?" explained Smith.
 
Smith was one of the six undergraduate students who decided to take an end-of-the-year paper design assignment a step further. The group built their own design, a hybrid alternative-energy powered car, in 2010.
 
Since then, more cars have been built, using both hydrogen and solar power. 
 
Warren Larter, a former student, is the university's solar car project manager. While he does not expect solar cars to become mainstream, he pointed out that they do offer an important learning tool in the development of sustainable technologies.
 
"For us, it's a research thing. Our exact example is Formula One. You'll never see those cars on the road, but the technologies that go into them, you see it in every single car in every single household across the world. So that's where we are pushing it. This is our Formula One of alternative energy," said Larter.
 
Larter started a company that allows students to work on real-life projects fueled by industry demand. He said that alternative energies are a growing market, and more skilled engineers are needed.
 
"Locally, there is a lack of experts in alternative energy and in particular in solar technology. We seem to be importing a lot at this stage, which is not ideal… We should have the experts locally, so [a] project like this really pushes that. We have guys working with the solar panels, working on different aspect of the project. So instead of importing the guys and flying them in to work on this, we use the local guys, so they know just as much and can even do better than the international guys," said Larter.
 
Kegan Smith highlighted the potential real world application of the skills learned in projects such as the car.
 
"I got guys working on huge systems on the telecom sites, because that's what they did in the cars. So the experience they gain from the cars are now working towards it in the industry," said Smith.
 
Larter and his team of students are now working on a third car to enter the next Solar Challenge in August 2014. They want to win the national competition and then compete internationally.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid