STEAM Action: Sixth Graders Build and Race Model Solar Cars

During the final couple weeks of the 2020-21 school year, Mount Madonna School (MMS) sixth grade students designed, built and raced small model solar cars.

Most years, this popular and creative STEM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) project takes place earlier in the spring and the cars are raced at the school’s annual Summit for the Planet environmental celebration and learning expo. That event hasn’t happened for two years, however, due to COVID-related restrictions.

The project components included reading and thinking about solar power as an alternative energy source and following instructions to build a working axle and chassis from a solar car kit.

Next students designed and built original solar car bodies from the provided materials, with emphasis on engineering, aesthetics, and the inclusion of aerodynamic features.

To test their models, students calculated the rate of speed in feet per second for five trial runs, including the average speed for those trial runs.

Finally, a racing competition was held, with cars judged on their speed, stability, ability to drive straight, as well as overall look.

“It was a fun and educational end-of-year activity,” commented middle school science teacher Hilary Alvardo.



Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 375 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.