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Solar-powered race cars pass through Missouri

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Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio
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Cecelia Young, one of three drivers of the University of Michigan's solar-powered race car (background).

By Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio

Jefferson City, Mo. – Several groups of college students are racing across mid-America in solar-powered cars this week, and they made a pit stop today outside the Missouri State Capitol.

The event is called America's Solar Challenge. Several universities from the U.S., Canada, Germany and Taiwan are sponsoring the solar-powered race cars.

Cecelia Young is one of the drivers for the University of Michigan team. She says it's better than riding a roller coaster.

"You get to control where you're going, how fast you're going, and knowing that there's only a fraction of an inch of carbon fiber and core between you and the asphalt gives you a rush like no other," Young said.

Gail Luke is one of coordinators of the 2010 America's Solar Challenge.

"Students spend two years designing, building and racing these solar cars, so it teaches them a lot of real-world applications, teaches them the business side as well as the engineering side, and yes, we have a lot of fun along the way," Luke said.

The racers share the road with local traffic all along the course, and they must obey all traffic laws and go no faster than 65 miles per hour.

One of the teams is sponsored by the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla. Christina Young is Missouri S & T's team president.

"Today we were running a little low on power, so we were a little bummed out about that," Christina Young said. "Overall, we keep gaining on teams, so I guess you can't ask for much more than that."

Christina Young from Missouri S & T and Cecelia Young from Michigan are not related.

The race began on Sunday in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, near Tulsa, and is set to end Saturday in Naperville, Illinois, near Chicago.

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