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Team’s work holds promise for future

A lot of people say they support development of alternative energy sources, but most of us are having a tough time weaning ourselves off fossil fuels.

Consumers continue to pay higher prices for gasoline, grumbling all the way to the gas pumps, but they don’t force auto manufacturers to make major improvements in fuel economy.

In spite of reports that pollution from vehicle exhaust is adversely affecting the environment and predictions that our gas pumps may eventually run dry before we have reliable alternative transportation, many Americans are content to take a “wait-and-see” attitude.

Then there are young people like the team members from Argyle’s Liberty Christian School who set out on a trip across the country Tuesday in a solar car traveling at about 35 mph.

The team is one of 14 — half of which hail from Texas — competing in the 20th annual Solar Car Challenge, an 884-mile, eight-day trek from a Northwest school district parking lot in Justin to Exposition Park in Los Angeles. The teams will travel back roads the entire trip.

The Solar Car Challenge was created in 1993 “to motivate students in science and engineering, and alternative energy awareness,” according to its website. Through the challenge, students learn how to design, engineer and construct solar cars that are raced in a closed-track event at Fort Worth’s Texas Motor Speedway or events cross country.

Traveling with the team from Liberty Christian are 10 students — six of whom will take turns driving the solar car — and three teachers. The students are required to have a driver’s license to drive the car.

The solar car, sponsored by CoServ Electric, is traveling with a caravan that includes a lead vehicle, a 24-foot box truck that pulls a trailer, and a recreational vehicle that alerts motorists that the caravan is ahead with a sign reading “Caution Solar Car Ahead.”

Liberty Christian’s car is 15 feet long, 5 feet wide and weighs more than 900 pounds. The three-wheeled vehicle has a 48-volt motor and five solar panels that put out about 250 watts each.

The Liberty Christian team has spent the past two years constructing the current model, and costs totaled an estimated $18,000 to $20,000. The team has competed in four previous Solar Car Challenge events at Texas Motor Speedway, but this is the first long-distance road trip.

Liberty Christian’s team was making finishing touches on lighting and wiring right up until the time they headed to the starting line. Such adjustments, team coach and Liberty science teacher Brent Dragoo told us, are teaching students life lessons and about overcoming issues and how to adapt.

“I have a bunch of good kids,” he said. “It’s just awesome to watch how their mind thinks ... the problem-solving process. Bottom line, every day is an awesome experience around here.”

Family and friends, who traveled to Justin to wish the team well, could be heard cheering as the Liberty Christian solar car took a left turn onto State Highway 114 heading west Tuesday.

We join in cheering the team on and encourage each of these creative young people to continue seeking solutions to the problems that confront our nation as they complete their studies and begin their careers.

The work that they’ve done is just a start, but it’s an impressive beginning and offers the promise of future answers to questions that should concern us all.