Harris, Mr. Gregory

2006 Winner: Journalism: General Public

Solar Car Ride Along Promotes Appreciation For Hands-On Science

It was a sunsational story with a bright ending. For 10 days, University of Calgary Media Relations Advisor Gregory Harris traveled with the Soleon Solar car team, the University of Calgary’s entry into the 2005 North American Solar Challenge (NASC), a 4,000 km race. He filed regular reports while on the road, securing media coverage of the event back home and also raising public awareness for science and technology in Alberta.

Racing for Solar Energy

The NASC is a competition to design, build, and race solar-powered cars in a cross-country event, promoting a greater understanding of solar energy technology, its environmental benefits and its promise for the future. The competition also provides students and engineers with a hands-on opportunity to develop and demonstrate their technical and creative abilities.

The 2005 race started in Austin, Texas on July 17 and, for the first time, finished in Canada at the University of Calgary on July 27. The race attracted 40 teams, 10 from Canada. A crowd of 10,000 greeted the finishers, including Soleon, which placed 13th, an exceptional finish for a first-time entry. The University of Michigan solar car, Momentum, was the first-place winner.

Capturing the Attention of a Nation

Mr. Harris captured the day-to-day progress of the race and the flavour of life on the road in daily news releases, which were picked up by regional, national and international print, radio and television news outlets. His reports generated an appreciation for the hands-on learning and application of science. News release topics ranged from the actual challenges of driving the car, to team logistics, nutrition and hospitality encountered along the way.

Later that year, Soleon went on to race in the 2005 World Solar Challenge, a 3,000-km race in Australia. Soleon finished first in its production-class category and placed 10th overall. Again, Mr. Harris traveled with the team, issuing news releases that generated extensive media coverage.