It was a cloudy day on Saturday morning. No, it was a sunny day on Saturday morning. Wait, it was both or almost both as the clouds finally won out.

Ordinarily, this much attention is not given to the just how much sun or lack of sun there is. But at the 11th annual solar car races at the Martha's Vineyard Boys & Girls Club, where each year fifth and sixth grade students from around the Island design, build and race solar cars, it was all about the sun.

Checking the wheel to sun ratio. — Anthony Esposito

“When it’s rained we’ve done it in the gym and used battery packs,” said Kara Gelinas, the event organizer and a fifth and sixth grade teacher at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School. “This year is weird though, because it’s not rainy, but it’s not sunny. The battery packs look like a must though.”

The students quickly lined up at the repair table to switch out their solar panels and add battery packs to their cars, trying to make last minute adjustments for the extra weight.

Each of the schools competed in two heats. With nearly 200 participants, the individual heats were necessary to ensure that each car could race. Following these initial heats, a third round was held to determine the overall winner for each school.

Chilmark School represents at solar/battery car races. — Anthony Esposito

“It feels great!” said Katie Fleeman of the Edgartown School after winning third place with her partner.

The solar cars races represent the culmination of an Island-wide educational project where students learn about solar power and renewable energy along with more technical topics like gear ratios and the aerodynamics of a car. This knowledge was also on display at the competition as panels of judges asked students questions to assess their knowledge about the design and technical merits of their cars. Winners were chosen in these categories, too.

Tom and Wendy Soldini were among the volunteer judges. They recently bought a solar panel for their home and wanted to support the movement towards renewable energy.

“We thought this would be a good way to join and help the solar community,” said Mr. Soldini.

Judges interviewed students about their cars both before and during the races, selecting the winners throughout the tournament.

But regardless of knowledge or technical prowess, all the students went home with a purple ribbon for participation. And by the end of the races, everyone was smiling and laughing regardless of whether their car even started.

“I had fun,” said one student, proudly walking away with a solar car smashed to pieces.

Solar Car Race Results:


1st place – Emma Toomey and Willa Welch
2nd place – Braden Sayles and Theo Fairchild-Coppoletti
3rd place – Peter Vincent and Jonathan Chivers

Oak Bluffs
1st place - Lila Mikos and Nick Pecararo
2nd place – Oliver Dorr
3rd place – Tristian Gromoshak

1st place - Alicia Teixeira and Zachary Utz
2nd place – Finn Lewis
3rd place – Kathleen Dos Santos

1st place – Jayden Coyle and Quin Cabral
2nd place – Dylan Mahoney and Brendan Donnelly tied with Ashley Brasefield and Gracie Scheller
3rd place – Isabelle Murphy and Sara Creato tied with Edward Cherry

Chilmark/West Tisbury
1st place – Atlas Zak
2nd place – Tyler Shipway and Tegan Fenner
3rd place – Owen DiBiaso