What could be more heart-pounding than watching custom solar-powered cars race around a frenzied racetrack? Answer: nothing. That’s what observers learned at what’s come to be known as the Solar Grand Prix, held this past weekend in Long Beach, California.

Since the end of January, area students have worked to design and build their own solar-powered model cars, availing themselves of just about every material the could get their hands on. Pamela Hale-Burns of the Contra Costa Times captured the resourcefulness and creativity of the students:

With a car made from a two-liter Sprite bottle, soda caps, peanut butter lids and Velcro from an old shoe, Elizabeth Kriebel, 11, Caiti Crhan, 11, Caroline Beliz, 12, and Tanya Joumblat, 11, an all-girls team from Bethany Lutheran, won their heat.

“Pretty much everything is recyclable or reused,” Elizabeth said.

Long Beach Solar Grand Prix 2010
The competition included prizes for the fastest and most creative cars

A solar-powered car made out of a soda bottle?! That is awesome. (Nerd alert: When I was in the sixth grade, a friend and I made a model solar-power car, a la the World Solar Challenge, using Legos and a few other items.)

In all seriousness, as we mentioned in the solar power rundown this morning, it’s great to see young students taking up an active interest in solar power. Ultimately, it is this younger generation that stands to gain — or lose — from today’s investments in clean energy. As the Contra Costa Times story notes, the California sun was in short supply for the solar race, but enthusiasm and excitement abounded:

“I’m so excited to see so many families here and teachers and the involvement,” [event founder Gerrie] Schipske said.”The students are going back and they’re tinkering with their cars when it doesn’t work the first time and they’re getting back in the race and they’re learning the principles. We’ve got an overcast day, and they’re learning that with solar, sometimes you can’t do it with an overcast.”

Despite the clouds, most cars crossed the finish line.

About the Solar Grant Prix: The  Solar Car Grand Prix is sponsored by Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske and the 5th District Solar and Sustainability Task Force. Additional sponsors include: Southern California Edison, the City of Long Beach Parks, Recreation and Marine Department,  P2S Engineering, Progressive Power Group, Long Beach Nature Center, Partners of Parks, Ameco Solar, United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners of America – Local 360, Long Beach Firefighters Association, and the Long Beach Lifeguards Association, ABC Solar.