14th annual EnergyWhiz held at UCF's Florida Solar Energy Center in Cocoa. By Chris Bonanno.


Elementary, middle and high school students from as far as away as Jamaica showed off their hydrogen-powered remote controlled cars, solar cookers and other sustainability devices on Saturday.

The 14th annual EnergyWhiz event, held at UCF's Florida Solar Energy Center in Cocoa, included a number of competitions were held, said Jim Fenton, director of FSEC. Among them was a solar cook-off.

“We have several different events where they’re actually preparing a meal, the judges actually inspect the meal, taste the meal, give out prizes associated with the best quality presentation of the meal and so on and so forth,” Fenton said.

High school students took part in an electric-powered go-kart competition in vehicles they built.

“The goal is to get the longest distance in a given amount of time,” Fenton said. “It’s not a 'win the race,' it’s a 'get the furthest distance with the most energy.'”

Students also built hydrogen “Rube Goldberg” (chain reaction) machines.

“These are devices that show a lot of energy transfers,” Fenton said. “They may have falling dominoes, they may have ping-pong balls, they may have balloons, but the idea is to show energy transfers and in that device, they actually use the hydrogen-powered fuel cell.”

A “Junior Solar Sprint” competition also took advantage of primarily sunny skies Saturday.

“We actually have time trial car races where they run the distance of the track, which is about 100 feet or something, and they actually have time trials with that and then the top 10 teams actually participate in a double-elimination tournament to go ahead and crown the winner of the event,” Fenton explained.

Hydrogen fuel cell-powered remote control car races also excited those in attendance. Among those who participated in the races was a group from Springhouse Community School in Floyd, Virginia, near Roanoke.

Team member Milo Duffy explained how the car operated.

“You have your fuel cell and your control box and your hydro-sticks and the hydrogen goes into the fuel cell where the electrons are then split off and … then the electrons, then go to the battery," Duffy said.

Many local students also participated, such as Edgewood Jr./Sr. High’s quintet of Matthew Yarkin, Adam Beil, Reilly Koshlap, Jasmine Almeda and Kelly Crane, who put together a recycled cat house called "Kitty Comfort."

And as was appropriate for the event, they went and above beyond with their project.

“We wanted to make it with as many energy transfers as we could,” said Almeda of their project, which included solar panels, wires and pumps for water replete with a plant and catnip on top of it.


Contact Bonanno at 321-242-3662, or follow Chris on Twitter @FTChrisBonanno.

Read or Share this story: