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String Theory

Sunshine Powered Alibre Design Solar Car

Last week Alibre Inc. was visited by students from Byron Nelson High School to be trained on how to use Alibre Design Professional software. The goal was not just to learn 3D CAD software, which most of these students already had a firm grasp of, but to use their skills to design a solar power car for a real life multi state race.

The race is sponsored by Hunt-Winston Solar Car Challenge. The annual event invites students nationwide to build solar-powered cars and enter them in a race from Texas Motor Speedway to Golden, Colorado.

Since November, the Byron Nelson students have been using Alibre Design to draft and construct a solar-charged vehicle for the 700-mile race. Eighteen other teams will make the seven-day trek - divided into stages - with some traveling from as far as California and Connecticut to begin the race.

The race is split into 150-mile stages, driving Cat1 - the solar car is named after the high school's mascot, a Bobcat. Each member of the Byron Nelson team contributes something unique. Zack offers electrical knowledge, while Matt Klauser contributes mechanical assistance, and Austin Flickinger touts his design savvy.

The Race is in July but before that the Byron Nelson team has several hurdles before revving their engine, including deadlines for turning in schematics and other paperwork. With its entry application approved, the team joins others in receiving curriculum materials, on-site visits and workshop opportunities from Winston officials. Such evaluation is critical since the students are designing and constructing a full-sized automobile, not a miniature model. They must have a driver's license to operate the vehicle, as they would a conventional gas-powered car.

Chad Loving, Peter VanHouten, Taylor Douglas and Cliff Campbell also lend their talents to a vision that each boy hopes to achieve. "My role on the team is the design of the car," said Austin, 14, a ninth-grader. "The funnest part is definitely meeting with the team and going on to conferences and seeing other teams and learning how they do things." Austin is not alone in his enthusiasm.

"Ever since I was little, I've built cars out of stuff like cardboard and plastic," said Matt, 15, a freshman whose father Darren serves as team adviser. "It's just really fun."

But pushing the team's vision to reality requires money, a fact not lost on Matt. Realizing that building a solar car can cost between $10,000 and $15,000, the team looks to the Adopt-a-Solar-Cell program to fuel their dreams. Those contributing to the program help the students purchase supplies and pay other expenses pushing them closer to July competition.

That is where Alibre Inc stepped in, with individual design licenses and training for each of the students. "We gave each one of the boys a license of Alibre Design Professional and the training & support they need to get up and running with the software," said Mike Hayden, marketing manager for the company.

Alibre Technical Support Manager, Mark Mankiwicz said, "Working with the kids was much easier than expected, they picked up the software very quickly and it is exciting that our new generation is learning 3D CAD software at such a young age."

As they trade design ideas and continue building their solar vehicle at weekly meetings, the boys look forward to the race.

To help contribute or sponsor the team please visit their website at