What's Happening in the Area

STEM Grows for Middle School Students Thanks to TransOptions

The week of May 16th was anything but typical for over 5,000 New Jersey middle school students who participated in TransOptions’ Junior Solar Sprints (JSS) competition. Five days of divisional races day were the culmination of a hands-on program that began in September introducing students to alternative energy science and engineering aligned with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

In addition to the excitement of competition, JSS fosters life skills by introducing scientific career possibilities and demonstrating the dynamics of alternative energy.  Teachers have called JSS "21st century learning at its finest."

JSS is fun as well as free for the students. TransOptions provides the materials free of charge, including a solar panel, motor, gears and a set of rules. The students then form teams and spend months designing, building, testing and ultimately racing their solar-powered model cars.
This week’s divisional races were conducted at five northern New Jersey schools. A complete list of winners from all five races is posted on TransOptions’ website at http://www.transoptions.org/junior-solar-sprints.

Individual race results can be found on the following pages:
Division 1 – Monday May 16 at Great Meadows Middle School, Great Meadows
Division 2 – Tuesday, May 16 at Kittatinny Regional High School, Newton
Division 3 – Wednesday, May 18 at Ridgedale Middle School, Florham Park
Division 4 – Thursday, May 19 at New Providence Middle School, New Providence
Division 5 – Friday, May 20 at Kingwood Township School, Frenchtown
Division winners advance to the Inter-County Final Race on Monday, May 23 at Ridgedale Middle School, Florham Park, where model cars take the top prizes for engineering, craftsmanship, speed and progress documentation. The competition begins at 9 a.m. and will conclude at approximately 1 p.m.
Now in its 15th year, JSS has grown in size and scope from 8 schools and 451 students from Morris, Sussex and Warren counties to 63 schools and nearly 5,000 students from an expanding geography that includes Bergen, Essex, Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren counties.  The judging process has been significantly streamlined by expanding the use of electronic tablets and incorporating software tools, thus saving time, being sustainable and enabling more students to participate. A dedicated group of volunteers lend their time and talents to support the growth of JSS as judges and repair table mentors. 
JSS is a considerable financial and logistical undertaking. Support from sponsors helps to defray the cost of materials and enables TransOptions to continue offering JSS at no cost to students, their teachers, parents and school districts.
TransOptions gratefully acknowledges Alcoa Foundation, FirstEnergy Foundation, The Provident Bank Foundation, Thorlabs, 3M and Pitsco Education for their continued sponsorship.

For more information, contact TransOptions’ Environmental Education Coordinator, Kristen Tomasicchio at (973) 267-7600

TransOptions is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization celebrating 30 years of delivering programs and services to improve mobility, the environment and overall quality of life in northwestern New Jersey.