WPS Solar Olympics goes virtual

The Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) puts on an annual Solar Olympics competition each year to...
The Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) puts on an annual Solar Olympics competition each year to give students the opportunity to showcase their science skills.(WSAW)
Published: May. 26, 2020 at 6:20 PM CDT
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For over 20 years, Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) has held their annual Solar Olympics competition for high school students in northeast and north central Wisconsin.

However, due to the novel Coronavirus pandemic, the contest was moved to a virtual format since all schools are conducting distance learning for the remainder of the school year.

The Solar Olympics is a competition that gives students a chance to showcase their science, engineering and math skills to create a solar energy design and compete against other students. The competition will be going on through Thursday, May 28.

“Our focus since this spring has been, what can we do to help students continue to improve their science, their technology, engineering and math skills and learn more about solar energy,” WPS Spokesperson Matt Cullen said. “This virtual option does give them the opportunity to do that.”

Cullen said an important reason for putting on this competition each year is to promote the use of renewable energy resources in a changing world. With this being the first ever Solar Olympics, the way the competition works is different than how it works when it’s in person. Schools taking part in our area include Marathon High School, Rhinelander High School, Lakeland Union High School, Menominee (Michigan) High School, Wausau West High School, and Tomahawk High School.

Once students have put together their solar energy design, they have to send in a photo or a video of their creation and include a short description of what it does and how the design works.

“Students are participating and they are coming up with ways to continue to showcase their knowledge of solar energy while being able to do so in a distance learning environment and working on their own,” Cullen said.

Solar Olympics is an event students look forward to each year and WPS, along with teachers are glad that students are able to continue the tradition of showcasing their skills.

By still having the opportunity for students to participate in the Solar Olympics, it gave them something to look forward to and to still have fun.

“We had one senior girl who has competed all three years, placed all three years, she didn’t want to go out without one more chance to kind of see how she could do,” Marathon High School science teacher Todd Stoffel said. “We had another girl who put some time into a t-shirt design for the solar Olympics, so she had submitted hers.”

There are nine different events that students can choose to submit to including car design, solar cooker, building energy simulation, advertising campaign, energy efficiency, essay, photography, sculpture, and t-shirt design.

Once all the students have submitted their designs, the competition judges will grant gold, silver and bronze awards for each category as a nod to the awards given in the Olympics.