GSB News and Notes: Unifi Sustainability Partnership with Pac-12 Will Get Air Time; Historic Sports Photos Help Document Climate Change; Chicken Pot Pie Rats Fall Short in Solar Car Race Challenge

We have a chock-full GSB News and Notes column to start your week.

  • Unifi, one of the world’s leading innovators in the manufacture of recycled performance fibers, recently became the Founding Sustainability Partner of Pac-12 Team Green. One important feature of the partnership is that sustainability-themed content will appear on the Pac-12 Networks. 

  • Footage of old cycling races and marathons is being used by researches to document climate change. 

  • And, in a follow up to a June GSB story, the Chicken Pot Pie Rats, a team of three brilliant eighth graders from a middle school in the San Diego area, were unable to win the school’s second straight Junior Solar Sprint (model car race) National Championship due to a technical issue with the solar panels atop their vehicle. 

 

UNIFI TO HELP PAC-12 NETWORKS #COVERGREENSPORTS 

This seemingly ordinary snippet in the Pac-12 Conference’s recent press release announcing its new sustainability partnership with Unifi caught my eye: “Unifi will…work with the Pac-12* and Pac-12 Networks on creating custom content and media assets to feature sustainability programs.”

A partner helping to improve recycling rates at a stadium or arena? That is ordinary in the Green-Sports world these days.

A partner funding sustainability-themed ads or public service announcements (PSAs) on Pac-12 Networks, with its 19 million subscribers^ — that is EXTRAORDINARY!

The announcement that Unifi∞ will help Pac-12 Networks #CoverGreenSports was light on details. A spokesman for the conference said plans for the sustainability content — subject matter, frequency, etc — will be developed over the next couple of months. The ads/PSAs will likely go live in late-September/early-October, as the Pac-12 football season moves into high gear.

 

Unifi Pac-12

Pac-12 and Unifi executives announce their Team Green partnership (Photo credit: Unifi)

 

Long-time readers know that GreenSportsBlog believes the Green-Sports world is transitioning from its 1.0 version (greening the games at the stadium, arena, road race, etc.) to its 2.0 iteration (reaching the far greater number of people who consume sports via TV, phone, internet with sustainability messaging).

Kudos to Unifi, Pac-12 Networks and the Pac-12 for demonstrating much-needed Green-Sports 2.0 leadership. When will more corporations and college and/or pro sports leagues follow Unifi and the Pac-12? Stay tuned.

 

FOOTAGE OF OLD SPORTS EVENTS HELPS SCIENTISTS TRACK CLIMATE CHANGE 

Here’s a new and welcome aspect of the Green-Sports world: Scientists using sports to document climate change.

Marlene Cimons, writing in the July 18th issue of Popular Sciencetells the story of how climate scientist and cycling fan Pieter De Frenne observed changes to the landscape while watching the Tour of Flanders over many years in his native Belgium.

“[De Frenne] noticed startling changes in the trees and shrubs framing many of the cobbled streets that have been part of the course for years,” reported Cimons. “The landscape had morphed from totally bare to lush with greenery.”

Sports events have, of course, been documented in photos, on film and on video for over a century. Cycling and marathons are ideal for documenting climate change: They’re often held at the same time every year, over the same courses.

That is the case with the one-day Tour of Flanders, which was first contested in 1913. The annual cycling road race always takes place on the first Sunday in April. De Frenne — a scientist in the forest and nature lab in Ghent University’s department of the environment — and his colleagues compared images of the same trees and plants on 12 hills along the route between 1980 and 2016.  They discovered that trees surrounding the course are budding earlier.

According to Andy Furniere in the July 23 issue of Flanders Today, “Before 1990, the trees rarely had leaves during the race. But after 1990, the trees – largely magnolia, hawthorn, hornbeam and birch – were full of leaves. The researchers said that the pictorial evidence suggests that the average temperature in these areas has increased by 1.5 degrees Celsius since 1980.”

The impacts are significant: Trees getting their leaves earlier in the year lead to shadows being created for a longer period of time. Some flowers thus don’t get enough sun to bloom which negatively effects insects and birds.

 

Tour of Flanders

AFTER: The April 2018 Tour of Flanders in full flower (Photo credit: Tim DeWaale/Visit Flanders)

 

1990 Tour of Flanders

BEFORE: The April, 1990 Tour of Flanders. Trees are much less lush than in the 2018 edition, which reflects the cooler temperatures of that time (Photo credit: Graham Watson)

 

De Frenne told Cimons that the historical visual documentation of sports events like Tour of Flanders, “can be an invaluable, still underexploited resource for climate change research and other types of biological research.”

 

 

CHICKEN POT PIE RATS START STRONG, FALL VICTIM TO SOLAR PANEL FAILURE AT JUNIOR SOLAR SPRINT CHAMPIONSHIPS

Last month, GreenSportsBlog featured the story of the Chicken Pot Pie Rats, a team of three eighth graders from the Joan MacQueen Middle School in Alpine, CA — about 30 miles east of San Diego — who race model cars powered by small solar panels atop the roofs. The team sought to defend the school’s 2017 Junior Solar Sprint National Championship at the 2018 finals in Atlanta against over 100 teams from all over the United States.

Here’s a report on how the Pie Rats made out from team member Ronan Eddie, his dad Patrick and team volunteer Chris Loarie:

“The Pie Rats recorded the fastest time in the preliminary time trials…and were the number one seed going into the 16-team finals. Before the finals started, we put the car out in the sun and tried to run it and it was not functioning like it normally would — definitely not like it was during local trials and the national time trials in Atlanta. We ran a test with a voltmeter to look at the voltage output and it gave its full voltage. The symptoms of the car’s sluggishness pointed to a problem in the solar panel sill or possibly a problem with the motor.”

“When we were walking back to the classroom after field testing, the light hit the panel just right and we noticed a fine scratch on the cover of the panel. Close inspection revealed that the plastic cover was not scratched. Rather, the actual wafer under the plastic protective cover had a crack in it and that caused the circuit to fail.

“It is a bit hard to swallow that the car made it through many local races and track testing, made a cross country trip in a special plastic box that was put into a foam protective carrying case, and made it through the time trials and recorded an unbelievable time.  Then it was turned over to the race officials for overnight storage and when it was returned, it would not function.”

To be clear, Loarie does not want to imply there was malicious intent on the part of the event organizers. He surmises the damage to the panel was the result of an unfortunate accident.

Despite the disappointment, Loarie sees the bright side: “We know we are creating dominant designs and will use this experience to educate future [Joan MacQueen Middle School] teams.”

 

Chicken Pot Pie Rats 1

Members of the Chicken Pot Pie Rats (from left to right) Josh Handley, Chase Kingston, and Ronan Eddie, along with Josh’s and Ronan’s dads at the 2018 Junior National Sprint Championships in Atlanta (Photo credit: Chicken Pot Pie Rats)

 

 

* The Pac-12 is one of the leading collegiate sports conferences (leagues) in the USA. Its member schools are Arizona, Arizona State, Cal-Berkeley, Colorado-Boulder, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington State
^ Pac-12 Networks subscriber data per SNL Kagan, 2018
∞ Unifi, through its REPREVE® brand, has transformed more than 12 billion plastic bottles into recycled fiber for new apparel, footwear, and more

 


 

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SoCal’s Joan MacQueen Middle School Goes for the Junior Solar Sprint National Championship

A team of eighth graders from the Joan MacQueen Middle School in Alpine, CA — about 30 miles east of San Diego — are getting ready to defend the school’s Junior Solar Sprint National Championship at the finals in Atlanta on June 24-25. Teams from all over the United States race model cars that are powered by solar panels mounted on the roofs. GreenSportsBlog talked to Chris Loarie, a parent volunteer leading the Chicken Pot PieRats squad, and Chase Kingston, one of the Pie Rats’ key cogs, to gain a better understanding of what Solar Sprint racing is all about.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Chris and Chase, thank you for taking time out from your preparations for the Junior Solar Sprint National Championships to talk to us. Chris, how long has this been a “thing”?

Chris Loarie: Well, it’s run by an organization called the Technology Student Association, and it’s been around for about 20 years.

GSB: I had no idea!

Chris: Most people don’t…

GSB: When did Joan MacQueen Middle School get involved?

Chris: The school got started with it about eight years ago — a science teacher offered an elective to interested students back then. We think it’s a great way for students to combine science, technology, engineering and renewable energy, testing creativity along the way. And about three years ago, it became a part of the curriculum in a newly created engineering elective…

GSB: …Middle schools have engineering courses? I guess that question shows it’s been a very long time since I was in middle school! And you can take a class in building and racing solar-powered model cars?

Chris: Thirty-one students are taking the JMMS Engineering course this year.

GSB: I would imagine it’s popular — It sounds like a lot of fun and you Joan Macqueen won the nationals last year in Orlando! And, it must be said, your son Hayden and Ramses Lara took home the gold so congratulations are in order.

Chris: Thank you!

 

Hayden Loarie Ramses Lara IBEW

Hayden Loarie (l) and Ramses Lara, after winning the 2017 Junior Solar National Sprint Championship in Orlando (Photo credit: Sullivan Solar Power)

 

GSB: What is your role?

Chris: I’m a parent volunteer with 35 years of experience in manufacturing. I want the kids in our community to see the types of tools and software that is used in industry and how math is used to solve real problems in design.

GSB: The kids are lucky to have you! And soon you will be on your way to Atlanta to try to do what many say is the toughest thing in sports: Repeat as champions. Are you ready? How did Joan Macqueen MS qualify for the nationals?

Chris: We took part in a regional qualifying tournament, sponsored by Sullivan Solar Power

GSB: …The company that installed the largest solar array in Major League Baseball on the roof at Petco Park, the home of the San Diego Padres?

 

Joan Macqueen Team

Members of the Joan MacQueen Middle School teams at the 2018 Junior Solar Sprint San Diego-area regional championship (Photo credit: Sullivan Solar Power)

 

Chris: The very same. Our three-person teams came in first, second and third and the winning team, the Chicken Pot PieRats, get to go to Atlanta to defend our title.

GSB: Chicken Pot PieRats? Where does that name come from?

Chris: We asked the teams to come up with a theme for their car and a team name that was representative of the theme. Being 8th graders, they came up with a play on words and decided on a pirates theme of sewer rats. I think it really helped them make their car color decisions and made the making of the car display a really fun process. Their display is worth almost 1/3 of points in the competition, so having fun with it leads to better quality work. Everyone laughs when they hear the name, so we know it was a great choice.

GSB: Love it! How long are the races and how many cars are in each heat?

Chris: The national event will start with a day of time qualifications. All the cars are run on a single track with a digital timer. The top 16 times advance to the finals the following day. The finals are two lane, head to head racing in a double elimination tournament. The winner of the races receives the highest point value, but the National Champion is the team that earns the most points in three judged areas: racing, design/documentation, and car display.

GSB: How many teams will try to dethrone the PieRats?

Chris: Last year, at the Nationals in Orlando, there were 90 teams so I believe it will be a similarly sized field in Atlanta.

GSB: That’s a lot of people chasing the PieRats, that’s for sure…And that’s a great point to segue from the chasers to talking to eighth grader Chase Kingston, one of three members of the PieRats team — along with Ronan Eddie and Josh Handley who will try to bring the Junior Solar Sprint national championship trophy back to Joan MacQueen Middle School! Chase, what are the keys to designing, engineering and building a solar powered model car that can compete for — and potentially win — a national championship?

 

Ronan and Chase Kingston

Ronan Eddie (l) and Chase Kingston on the winners’ stand after emerging victorious at the San Diego area regional qualifying tournament for the Junior Solar Sprint National Championships, sponsored by Sullivan Solar. Ronan, Chase and teammate Josh Handley head to the nationals in Atlanta on Friday for the races that take place Sunday and Monday (Photo credit: Sullivan Solar Power)

 

Chase Kingston: It takes a lot of things but I’d say the main factors are building the lightest car possible, with the best tires and the best gear ratios.

GSB: Of course…lightest, best tires and gear ratios…That’s easy to say but I imagine it’s hard to execute…

Chase: It isn’t easy but, thanks to our engineering teachers, we’ve been able to improve on all three.

 

PieRats_Final2

Engineering drawings of the Chicken Pot PieRats entry that will race in this weekends Junior Solar Sprint National Championships in Atlanta (Credit: Chicken Pot PieRats)

 

GSB: What about the solar panels themselves?

Chris Loarie: The solar panels, as well as the motors, are the same for all of the cars.

GSB: Got it — that puts a premium on design and engineering. Chase, how did you get into this?

Chase Kingston: Last semester, I was taking a coding class, didn’t like it much. One of my teachers, Miss Tomkins, suggested I try the Engineering class. So I did and she was right. It’s amazing!

GSB: I wish we had something like this when I was in school. How has this course and experience changed you?

Chase: I’m interested in engineering as a career but, thanks to the class and being part of the PieRats, solar engineering is now something I would like to explore.

GSB: That is great to hear. But before that, it’s time to head to Atlanta to try to bring the national championship back to Joan Macqueen Middle School. Good luck!

GreenSportsBlog will check in with Chris and Chase after the Junior Solar Sprint Nationals to see how they made out.

 

 


 

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