Launch of a non-profit association to help learners and students contribute to sustainable mobility

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The non-profit organization South African Solar Car Development Foundation (SASCDF) was launched on October 27 to help equip high school and college students with the skills and knowledge to be able to build a solar car and contribute to the sustainable transportation.

The foundation was established after schools and higher education institutions across the country expressed their interest in participating in both the Sasol Solar Challenge and the Ilanga Cup Solar Challenge to experiment with different energy and science concepts, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“Barriers, such as lack of financial support and the necessary skills and knowledge, are some of the biggest challenges faced in starting a solar car project and building a fully functional solar car in order to participate in solar car events, says SASCDF Founder and Director and Owner and Director of Sasol Solar Challenge and Ilanga Cup Solar Challenge Robert Walker.

To help improve skills and support future solar car teams in designing and building state-of-the-art solar cars, the foundation will collaborate with like-minded industry leaders and specialists with extensive experience in the sectors transportation and alternative energy, he adds.

“The wheels of sustainable transport turn slowly. This means that more diverse STEM and energy innovations are needed to contribute to the future of mobility in the country. We are therefore delighted to launch the SASCDF, which aims to attract young minds into STEM-related fields and empower them to develop solar car projects,” he said.

“The foundation will link the solar car projects with the Ilanga Cup Solar Challenge and the Sasol Solar Challenge. Once a team has acquired all the necessary skills and knowledge and built a solar car, they will then participate in the Ilanga Cup Solar Challenge to test their solar car on a closed track and then participate in the Sasol Solar Challenge on the roads open. of South Africa,” notes Walker.

In addition, the SASCDF will serve as a central resource hub for emerging solar car projects to access funding and resources through donors and partners, including materials to build solar cars as well as sharing insights from various field specialists and experienced solar car teams.

“High school students, some of whom start a solar car project as early as 9th grade, have the opportunity to learn about various STEM and energy concepts and then apply that knowledge and skills to build a fully functional solar car. This will allow them to gain valuable experience which will subsequently open various doors for them in the future when they continue their studies in higher education institutions,” he points out.

The foundation will focus on hands-on learning from STEM education, with real-world applications. It will teach these young minds critical thinking skills and instill a passion for innovation as they prepare to build their cutting-edge solar cars to compete in the Ilanga Cup Solar Challenge and then move on to the Sasol Solar Challenge.

“The goal is not just to develop solar car teams for solar challenges, but to develop a group of skilled and experienced scientists and engineers who will transform the transport sector and make it sustainable in the near future. “

Higher education institutions will be able to apply to the foundation from November to prepare their solar car projects for the Ilanga Cup Solar Challenge 2023, which will take place in July at Red Star Raceway, Delmas, Mpumalanga. Registration for high schools will open in March 2023.

Successful applicants will receive mentorship and various materials, which will include seed funding, learning materials and auto parts to help get the solar car projects off the ground.

All participating applicants submit project status reports to substantiate whether their solar car project is on track and viable. The rest of the funding and all other required materials are then allocated accordingly to finalize the projects and prepare for testing at the Ilanga Cup Solar Challenge, Walker explains.

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