WMU News

Sunseeker team recruiting area high school juniors

April 13, 2005

KALAMAZOO--Ten Kalamazoo-area high school students will have a special reason to cheer for Western Michigan University's Sunseeker solar race car during this summer's cross-country collegiate race. They'll be official members of the student team putting the car and race effort together.

Ten high school juniors, one from each of 10 area schools, are being recruited to join a team of WMU students, technicians and professors from several University departments that is already preparing the College of Engineering and Applied Science's entry for the 2005 American Solar Challenge. The event begins in Austin, Texas, July 17 and ends in Calgary, Alberta, July 27.

The high school recruitment effort is part of a special focus of this year's Sunseeker team that calls for making the race an educational event for members of the community. Students who join the team may be interested in engineering and technical fields, but also those interested in business, marketing, communications, art, education and other fields.

"There are all kinds of jobs that require everything from technical expertise to communication skills needed to become a community representative," says Fred Z. Sitkins, professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering and Sunseeker team advisor. "Having a passion for being on the team is what counts most of all."

After the race is over, the 10 high school students selected will become community ambassadors and will be expected to present information about the Sunseeker experience at their respective schools and at other community events. The presentations may include demonstrating the vehicle itself. Students who are selected must be available to attend evening work sessions and carry out assignments in a team environment from the time of selection through the time of the race.

To apply for Sunseeker team membership, students who will be classified as seniors in the fall should submit an application that includes contact information and the name of their high school as well as the following two items: a 200-250 word essay explaining why they want to be involved and what they can contribute to the Sunseeker project, and a letter of recommendation from one of their high school teachers.

The materials should be sent to Fred Sitkins, Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo MI 49008-5336.

Selections will be made by the Sunseeker team. Those selected will be expected to begin work immediately upon notification of their selection

WMU students began entering the competition in 1990 when the first event, called Sunrayce, was sponsored by General Motors Corp. and the U.S. Department of Energy. There were approximately 60 original entries of which only 32 met race qualifications. WMU ended that race in eighth place. Over the years, the competition, which is now held every two years, evolved into an event called the American Solar Challenge, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and, this year, Natural Resources Canada. WMU is the only team from Michigan and one of only three teams in the nation that has raced in all seven previous events. The most recent race, the 2003 American Solar Challenge, found WMU competing with the best engineering schools from across North America. The Sunseeker team turned in its best-ever performance, finishing in fifth place.

This summer's event, which combines south to north and east to west course elements, has led to some design changes in the vehicle, which are expected to make it even more competitive than the 2003 entry.

For more information about Sunseeker or the team's high school recruiting effort, contact Fred Sitkins at (269) 276-3375.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

WMU News
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