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MHS alumnus Hodson works on solar car

With high interest in alternative energy sources because of recent fuel prices, one Marion High School graduate is exploring one of the alternatives. Paul Hodson, a software engineering major at Kansas State University, Manhattan, is part of the university’s solar car team.

Hodson, son of Don Hodson and Tonya Hodson of Marion, joined the team about one and a half years ago.

“One of my friends told me about it, and I started going to meetings,” he said.

The 2007 MHS graduate helped make the mold of the car’s body. He also will program the computer components of the car. Team members work about six hours per week on the car.

The K-State solar car team was formed in 1995 after a solar car race held in Topeka, Hodson said. The team first raced in 1997. There are 12 team members.

Hodson appreciates the opportunity to learn for himself.

“It was just students working on it,” he said. “It was a chance to get hands-on experience.”

Two races are scheduled in 2009 for the team. The Formula Sun Grand Prix in June will be the first race since Hodson joined the team. The race is a track race, rather than a road race.

The team will go to the World Solar Challenge halfway across the world in October. The 10-day, 1,877-mile race goes from Darwin to Adelaide in the Australian Outback.

The trip to the World Solar Challenge is at-risk, though. Funding cuts at the university could sideline the team.

The team hasn’t chosen an official name for the car yet, but working names include Re-Paragon and Chupathingy. Previous cars were named Catalyst, Apollo, and most recently Paragon.

The highest speed any previous car has reached was 75 mph, by Catalyst, but endurance is more important, Hodson said.

The car, which weighs about 500 pounds when empty, must be street legal with tail lights, turn signals, and a horn. Headlights are unnecessary, considering the car’s inability to run in the dark. Its body is made mostly of carbon fiber and Kevlar, Hodson said.

Last modified Feb. 11, 2009

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