By ALLY DIGILORMO
We’re all familiar with the push to “go green,” but do we really think about it? Where do we even start? What exactly constitutes “green?” Who even knows enough to teach us? I have to give credit to a local pioneer.
I am Ally Digilormo, a recently graduated senior of Gilmer High School. I came to Gilmer my sophomore year, the same year that Criss Bartley began punching the clock at Gilmer High School.
All through my sophomore year, I kept hearing a few of my peers talking about a solar car team.
I must admit at first I paid no attention to the talk. It wasn’t until I figured out that the sponsor was one of my favorite teachers that I paid reverence to the idea.
I was very curious about the point and purpose of the team. I regret to say I did not actually consider joining the team until my junior year, but after one meeting I was hooked.
The point? The purpose? In 1993, an event called the Dell-Winston Solar Car Challenge was formed. High school students from across the country and even other countries (i.e. Mexico) were dared to build, dared to create, dared to go “green.”
The low-down on the challenge? Sponsors took root across the country. It took time, but the challenge grew and is growing now.
Teachers and community members who take on the role of sponsor have a job to do.
High school students are to make up teams that range from 3 to 12 members. These teams are given the task of building a full-sized, human-driven, fully functional, and completely solar-powered car. The only exception to solar power is the auxillary battery used to power the fans used for ventilating the batteries, lights and horn.
The students are given an updated set of parameters, rules and restrictions each year. They are expected to alter their vehicle to fit the new rules.
The race generally alternates. One year it is held in mid-July at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, and the next year it is held as a cross-country event. The cross-country race begins in Dallas and ends in Southern California. The race is an endurance race, almost a war of attrition of whose car will outlast whose.
Though that sounds competitive, it is the friendliest competition I’ve ever been involved in.
Everyone helps everyone else. Experienced teams teach new teams anything and everything they could possibly need to know. You do not even have to yell for help. If someone sees you having a problem, they go out of their way to help you.
This was made exceptionally clear to me at our first race last summer. We didn’t have the car running or the lights working.
Vital issues, right?
In the parking lot of the hotel, until midnight and through the heat of the next day, students from New York, Colorado and San Antonio worked with us, teaching us, helping us, and sometimes even learning from us, the novices.
This team has become something so much more than an eco-friendly push. I have been given so much. I have developed such a sense of ingenuity that I can now think on my feet. The quick-thinking skills I have developed proved useful time and time again.
I can think my way through problems that once seemed impossible. I have also received a sense of camaraderie and team orientation that I never could have imagined.
I can teach. I never before felt very confident teaching others, but now I am sure of myself.
It’s not only confidence in instructing others, but confidence in everything I do. I hold my head a little higher. I walk a little taller. I smile a little bigger, and I talk a little more assuredly.
But the most important thing I’ve gained? Leadership. I was pushed to develop my leadership ability.
I worked and worked at it with one goal in mind. I may have been the only girl on the team at the time, but I wanted to be captain. Ms. Bartley constantly pushed me and encouraged me to work at my leadership skills. It paid off.
Because of her encouragement and my determination, I accomplished my goal. I am very sad to say that this summer will be my last with the Piney Wood Raycers, Gilmer High School’s solar race car team.
I am the captain, but that’s not how I see it. They’ve become my family. The race this summer is going to be the last thing I get to do with my acquired family.
Now I’m reaching out to you, the community surrounding us. We need help getting to the race this year.
The community has definitely supported us. We’ve been given many tasks and opportunities for fundraising. We’ve been featured in this newspaper, The Gilmer Mirror, several times. We’ve even been given parts on occasion by local auto supply stores.
Now the race is nipping at our heels. We have this week to get together everything we can. The Challenge starts Sunda, July 15, with the first race on Monday.
We need all the help we can get. The members of this family who will continue after I have left need you. They are gaining every bit of what I gained, if not more, from this experience. They are learning, and they are teaching, and they are receiving the emotional and mental skills that will propel them through life.
If there is any event we can help with, or any donation you can give, please consider contacting us. Call Ms Bartley at Gilmer High School, 903-841-7500.
We will greatly appreciate anything you can do to help.
You can monitor our progress at the race by going to http://www.winstonsolar.org/challenge and clicking on “race results” from July 16 to 20.