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Solar car drives ETX team to international competition

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BULLARD, TX (KLTV) -

The first East Texas high school team to build a solar car took off for an international competition Saturday morning.

The Bullard High School engineering class started working on the vehicle back in October and headed to Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday to enter into a race that stretches from Texas all the way to California.

The vehicle is the product of countless hours of planning and engineering, work that began at the beginning of the school year.

"We've been building almost non-stop since then. In the classroom, outside the classroom, weekends, and all through the summer," said Cullen Hippler, the financial and publicity director for team.

The group has spent thousands of dollars on the project.

"We're finishing out around $100,000 invested," Cullen said.

The product they have to show for it? A roadworthy solar car.

"Our car comes in at 800 pounds, twice as powerful as any car, has 2.5 kilowatts more...let's say over 60 mph faster than any other car in our division. I just want to say thank ya'll," announced Austin Gwartney.

A big thanks went to Polish inventor Krzystof Kotlinski, who gave the team permission to use his carbon fiber joint patented technology. 

He resides in Connecticut, but made the trip to East Texas to see the finished product.

"I am speechless because these guys are amazing; they did an amazing job," Kotlinski said.

The crowd of supporters gathered for Saturday's big send-off was filled with proud parents.

"It makes me real proud of my son and not only my son, but the rest of the kids as well. There was more people involved in this, actually putting the car together, but the six who ended up here at the end, it's really taken a lot of dedication and I'm proud of them," said Kirk Lowrie, the father of a student on the solar car team.

Now, the team is heading to Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, where they are confident they will qualify to participate in the Winston Solar Car Challenge.

The eight-day competition begins at the Texas Motor Speedway and ends in Los Angeles, California. The trick? Never stopping for gas.

So, just how confident is this East Texas team?

"We intentionally designed this vehicle to one up the specifications of our competitors. We're very excited to cross the finish line on July 30th to a full crowd in L. A.," Cullen said.

The team is judged on mileage, not speed. On Sunday and Monday, the team will be going through vehicle testing. If the car meets the qualifications, they will head to California on Tuesday.

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