Colleyville’s Covenant Christian Academy Wins U.S. Solar Car Race Again

By guruscotty September 14, 2023 September 15th, 2023 No Comments

Colleyville’s Covenant Christian Academy Wins U.S. Solar Car Race Again

By Joy Donovan
Photos Courtesy of Covenant Christian Academy

Don’t be surprised if Covenant Christian Academy begins raising checkered flags above its Colleyville campus.

Such flags certainly could be adopted as the school’s official logo, since the Covenant Christian Academy Solar Car Team continues to hold bragging rights as national champions in solar-powered auto racing.

For the third straight year, the CCA team finished first nationally in its division in the Solar Car Challenge, a competition among more than 20 U.S. high school teams to design, engineer and build solar-powered vehicles for a race in July. This year’s open-road route went from Texas Motor Speedway to Palmdale, California, but a COVID outbreak cut the race short, ending it in El Paso. Still, the CCA team completed more miles than any other team and won the race’s Advanced Classic Division.

“I love the program,” said CCA headmaster Tony Jeffrey. “It’s just a great program that helps kids pull together not only what they’ve learned but also things they might not have learned yet. It gives them the opportunity to apply the knowledge they’ve learned in the classroom to real-life situations and to think critically.”

The champion Covenant Christian Academy team collects its trophy after the race was stopped in El Paso.

Covenant’s No. 5 solar-powered car Cougar Spirit covered 440.3 miles.

The Solar Car Challenge was established in 1993 by a former teacher to motivate students in science, technology and alternative energy. For the 2023 race, teams built the cars on their own time beginning with workshops in September 2022.

The contest allows students to combine their knowledge of math and science with teamwork skills.

“For these kids who are gifted in math and science, it gives them a real taste of what an engineer does before they get to college,” Jeffrey said.

Langan Moffett of Southlake, co-captain of this year’s winning team and now a freshman at Texas A&M University, wants to major in mechanical engineering.

“It certainly solidified my thoughts in engineering,” he said, just after attending orientation at A&M. “When I’m working in the workshop with everybody, the really cool part that is actually engineering is building the car to be safe and to build a car to match your competition. It was cool to see I used basic trigonometry or calculus to see how strong a part on our car needed to be. Seeing these calculations become an actual physical part on the car was really cool.”

The Covenant Christian Academy program started seven years ago at the urging of Colleyville resident Shannon Caraway, an electrical engineer, parent and school board member. He agreed to lead it and “backstop it” financially. “I took every excuse off the table,” he said.

Another volunteer, Mark Rose, a retired mechanical engineer and former race car driver, assisted, offering workspace in his machine shop for the Solar Car Club.

Students worked with adult volunteers on weekends and evenings to design and build the cars from scratch. Caraway’s two children were involved early on, and he remained an adviser after they graduated.

“For me as a dad, it was quality time spent with kids to transfer knowledge we couldn’t have done in any other way,” he said. “For me to have this opportunity to mentor is a way of paying it forward.”

A year’s worth of work underwent scrutiny by a panel of judges at Texas Motor Speedway before the race started July 16.

Flanked by safety detail vehicles in front and behind their solar-powered vehicle, the CCA team drove for three days straight, including 196 miles on the second day.

The Solar Car Challenge race started at Texas Motor Speedway and was to end in Palmdale, California. But a COVID outbreak cut the race short, ending it in El Paso.

Moffett, as co-captain, was one of the drivers. It was a bumpy ride, with 18-wheelers zooming past the car.

“The best way I can describe it is like a giant go-kart,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun to drive.”

Moffett, along with co-captain Sebastian Sandoval, Judah Lynch, Mark Risser and Minh Dang, made an impressive showing. Their car, Cougar Spirit, covered 440.3 miles of the 490.3-mile race route through Texas and New Mexico.

In addition to its three back-to-back division championships, CCA has two second place finishes and three third places.

With its third consecutive win, CCA has earned more division championships in the challenge than any other school in the nation.

Work is underway on the school’s entry for the 2024 race, which will be held at Texas Motor Speedway, since the competition alternates year to year between an open-road race and one on a closed track.

“We’ve actually gotten quite good at it, and we’re having fun with it,” Caraway said.

Drivers, start your engines.