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Tech Parks Arizona celebrated the fifth year of its high school competition, Racing the Sun, with a special award presentation for longtime mentors like Kelly Potter, a UA professor in electrical and computer engineering and optical sciences.
"Kelly has been with the program since the beginning, and we wanted to give her the Five-Year Mentor Award in recognition of the valuable contributions she's made," said Brenda Hough, program coordinator for Racing the Sun and community outreach coordinator for Tech Parks Arizona, a unit of Tech Launch Arizona, the University's technology commercialization arm.
Potter, a fellow with the American Ceramic Society, is renowned for her research in photosensitive materials, radiation-hardened optics, and solar and renewable energy – the latter being especially useful to Racing the Sun participants.
The year-long program engages teens across Southern Arizona and Phoenix in the design, construction and testing of solar-powered go-karts. It ends in a nearly day-long event during which teams race their go-karts for a chance to win awards for fastest lap, most laps and originality. Industry and university mentors serve as advisers to the students on topics such as electronics, automotive design and solar panels.
Potter joined the program in 2011, when just three teams competed. This year 13 teams participated, building a total of 20 go-karts.
"She's been involved since year one advising, judging and mentoring," said Hough, adding, "This year she helped students troubleshoot their karts, and she continues to advise program coordinators on safety issues, competition guidelines and technical aspects."