Houston Solar Race team ready for this year

By Lisa Voyles/Chickasaw Journal

HOUSTON – The Houston Solar Race team is once again getting ready to head to Texas for the Winston Solar Challenge and spoke to members of the Exchange club about their preparations.

The team races two vehicles in separate divisions with the Houston Lady Racers competing in the classic division and the Sundancer team competing in the Open division.

In 2011, both teams took first place in their divisions and they are eager for a repeat of their victories.

The Houston program has grown to become a household name in solar racing, but began as just an interesting project in the 1980s. Reese’s Electricity class at the Houston Vocational Center built the first car back in 1985 as a prototype but it never made it to a racetrack. Since 2001, the program has brought home first place honors every year in solar racing.

“If you can imagine beginning a program that didn’t exist,” Reese said. “And getting with the kids and saying, ‘We’re going to build a solar car.’ Can you imagine the looks I got?”

Reese found immediate community partners in the members of the local VFW.

“The veterans, the grey-haired generation could see past and see the vision,” Reese said. “They were the first support we had.”

The teams are formed from students at Houston High School and each year the faces change as some graduate out and new racers come on board, but Reese said the goal doesn’t change.

“It’s just as important to these students as it was to the previous students,” Reese said. “Success brings success and that’s what makes these students successful.”

Nick Callahan has been a team member for four years and said being involved in the program, “Is one of the greatest things I’ve done in my high school career.”

Jacob Bridgman spoke to the educational aspect of the program.

“You wouldn’t believe the learning experience this is,” Bridgman said.

The students gave an overview of their upcoming race, which will pit them in competition in closed-track racing at the Texas Motor Speedway.

The Lady Racers will compete in the Classic division with 14 total teams entered and the Sundancer team will compete in the Open division with three total teams. The Advance division is comprised of four teams.

Racing will begin July 16 and conclude July 19 with the awards ceremony.