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   Date: 3/29/13 Bookmark and Share

Smith Engineers Host Model Solar Car Competition

Enter by the end of Today

By Anne Berman '15

Students interested in learning the technicalities behind engineering sustainability are in luck. The Smith branch of Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) is kicking off a model solar car-building competition today, Friday, March 29.

Students who express interest by emailing eswsmith@smith.edu before the end of the day will be put into teams. The club will pay up to $100 for materials, and will give teams some guidelines for design. The cars will be raced on Chapin lawn on April 25, in celebration of Earth Week.

ESW president Brittany Bennett ’15 says the project aims to teach students the benefits of being asked to think about sustainability while building something. As they design their cars, students will need to think about choosing the right solar panel for the right cost, reducing mass so their car travels quickly, and making the car as aerodynamic as possible.

The competition follows a series of successful projects the club has completed this year, including the design of an irrigation system for an apple orchard, commemorating President Carol T. Christ, at MacLeish Field Station. This semester, Bennett has been hosting bimonthly “Think Tank” meetings to discuss current environmental issues, including Keystone Pipeline XL and the political climate on environmental justice.

“This club is all about giving students real-world problems and deadlines to complete projects aimed at tackling these problems on a local scale, while also bringing communities together,” explains Bennett. She is the key force behind the club’s active success; including the Sustainable Leadership award the club received last spring for building a “cargo cycle,” a bike that allows Dining Services to transport catered goods across campus without the need of a gas-fueled vehicle.

Bennett says her experience leading ESW has been the most time-consuming, fulfilling and life-changing aspect of her Smith experience so far. “The club is an intersection of my passions in life: science, math, and environmental justice. I’ve gained leadership experience, and I’ve relished the opportunity to enact real-life change; to extend beyond the problem sets I have to do for my classes and work on projects that help people and are good for the environment.

“My academics make being an engineer and enacting change possible,” Bennett adds. “But for me, academic learning can only be part of the pedagogy.”

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