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Dream Big: World Solar Challenge

October 15, 2015

It’s been said that to be the best, you must compete against the best.

That’s just what a group of high school students from Houston, Mississippi intend to do. Located about 125 miles southeast of Memphis, Houston is home to about 3,000 residents. A team of 14 students from the local high school have been toiling away for months to perfect a solar-powered electric vehicle for the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge competition in Australia this October.

When they make the trip to the land down under, they won’t be competing against kids from the neighboring town’s high school. Past participants in the World Solar Car Challenge include the likes of GM, Duke, Stanford and MIT. It’s a true David vs. Goliath story.

“Even though we’ve won the Solar Challenge fifteen times here in the United States, the 2015 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge will be the greatest challenge that our team has ever faced,” said Keith Reese, a faculty member and team advisor. “Since 1984 high schools from around the world have been attempting to cross the continent of Australia using only the sun as an energy source. Our goal is to become the first high school to accomplish this and drive across the Australian outback using only the sun’s energy.”

The race to the finish includes major highways between Darwin, Northern Territory, located along the northern coast of Australia, and Adelaide, South Australia. That’s a distance of 3,000 km (approximately 1,800 miles), roughly the drive from New York City to Denver. It is up to the team from Houston High to figure out how to complete the race in six days without filling up on gas or diesel fuel.

As if that wasn’t a big enough challenge, the team first had to find a way to transport their solar vehicle, known as the Sundancer, from Mississippi to Australia. That’s where FedEx came into the picture. FedEx Express is the world’s largest express transportation company and provides fast and reliable delivery to more than 220 countries and territories, including Australia. We also know a thing or two about developing and testing alternative fuel technologies. As of 2014, FedEx Express had more than 1,000 owned and contracted alternative fuel vehicles in its global fleet, including electric, hydrogen, natural gas and hybrid vehicles.

“Innovation can be defined as applied inspiration,” said Mitch Jackson, VP of Environmental Affairs and Sustainability, FedEx Corporation. “What you see here is these students’ hard work to help change what’s possible. We at FedEx are happy to use our role in connecting the world for responsible and resource benefit.”

We used our logistical expertise to move the 6,000 lb. shipment in a custom-built crate from our World Hub in Memphis to Sydney, Australia via FedEx delivery service. During transport, the Sundancer was monitored by SenseAware, powered by FedEx, which tracked the crate’s location as it moved across the world. In addition to keeping tabs on where it was, SenseAware also monitored environmental conditions inside the crate, including the temperature, humidity and light exposure.

The Sundancer arrived on-time and is ready to begin its journey in the competition across Australia. We can’t wait to see the team from Houston make history by being the first high school to complete the race. From all of us at FedEx, good luck!


    Mary Grace Wofford says:

    Thanks for the great article. I live in this small town and I am very proud of these students, adults, and Mr. Reese. I also want to say a big “Thanks” to FEDEX for the help and support they have done getting the car “down under.” Thanks for this great article..MGW

    Margaret says:

    you are awesome! We truly appreciate you and all you have done for our team! My grandson is part of that team! Without you and your expertise , this would have been next to impossible! Thanks once again!

    Tracy whitt says:

    We could not make the trip without fedex. Thanks for all.

    Floyd Ingram says:

    I’m a Solar Car parent and FedEx’s support made all the difference in this trip. Thanks for the lift.

    Lee says:

    Go Hilltoppers, Show the world how it’s done

    Beverly Pettigrew Doss says:

    I am a teacher at Houston High, and we are extremely proud of our students on the Solar Car Team. We are proud of their advisor, Keith Reese, who dreamed the dream, and science teachers Anita Ellison and Donna Turman. We are also grateful to the other adults serving as chaperones. Thanks,Fed Ex, for helping make this possible for our team! We are grateful for your help! Good luck to all!

    Gwendolyn Pearson says:

    I am a retired math teacher who spent most of 40 years at Houston High School. Thanks, FedEx, for the awesome article you have posted about the current solar car team & the previous 14 years of accomplishment under The leadership of Keith Reese.

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