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January 30, 2009

Arcata, Ca
By Anne Katz,

Having seen Marcelo’s Solar Car on the highway 3 days previous, wondering if it was a UFO, I was thrilled to find myself days later traveling behind him on our way to three grades schools in Northern California.

On Jan 26th luck was with me when an electric car enthusiast called to let me know that there was a fabulous solar car in town, “Join me at the Schatz lab at 11”. I was off in a moment looking forward to the chance of seeing this car up close and personal.

Marcelo, well on his mission of more than 200 days on the road, passing through Arcata, CA, was here to inspire young and old, with his solar car. With his open, funny, enthusiastic personality it took no time for several willing folks to offer themselves up to the cause.

I consider myself lucky that he took me up on my spare bedroom, vegetarian cooking and gated back yard. As conversation of the project got into full swing the networking began.

As a bit of a solar geek myself making contact with helpful folks was easy. Soon the phone and doorbell were ringing and connections were happening with the natural ease one would hope for in this environmentally friendly town.

First, John Schaefer showed up as the next in a series of exuberant volunteers ready to hit the road on Sat. driving the backup safety van and trailer behind to Solar Car as far as San Francisco. Next, Roger our local solar car driver, solar installer and solar educator was calling around and making arrangements for us to visit 3 grade schools. During the last few years Roger has installed grid tie solar systems on each of these schools, so the opportunity for a visit from Marcelo and his car refreshed the solar buzz they have already been made aware of.

After a series of unexpected delays the first school had been called and we were on our way to Equinox School. Following behind Marcelo’s solar car in Roger’s converted electric Volks Bug, walkie talkie in hand to communicate with Marcelo, we rounded the corner and headed up the drive to find some 80 plus kids and teachers, eyes popping out of their heads at the sight of this space ship looking cars silent approach.

As Marcelo parked and got out of the car all eyes were on him. Waiting for their cue the teachers got their students lined ready to circle around the car. With a looks of excitement and curiosity they listened intently to the technical details expressed in language they could understand compounded by a laugh or two with a story of a 911 call that stopped Marcelo in Alaska thinking he was an alien come down to earth with advanced solar capabilities. Not far from the truth as solar technology while not new to the car industry is still just a dream of the future for most. When the question and answer portion of the visit began their little hands shot up. “How long did it take to build this car?”, “How fast does it go?”, “Is it a problem that the car is so close to the ground?”,"How far can it travel?”, “Can you make one for me when I grow up?”. With his excellent
communication skills Marcelo answered all questions in order. Keeping the kids engaged and entertained. Then the moment they had all been waiting for, Marcelo climbed in the car, buckled up and we closed the top down with a click. Then with a hearty 1 2 3 Solar Car off he rode, with the silent grace only a solar car could boast, followed by the cheers and exuberance one would expect from a group of budding solar enthusiasts.

Two more to go we were off to visit Freshwater and Garfield schools. Attentive and fully engaged the kids, full of questions and curiosity brought a tear to my eye. No doubt our visit today gave them a great opportunity to educate their parents that night at the dinner table, and planted a seed for them and future generations to seek renewable energy as the wave of the future.

Equinox School
Freshwater School
Garfield Elementary School
Marcelo, Roger (solar Roger) and Anne Katz
Roger's electric beetle
Marcelo feeding chickens, Anne watches on.
Marcelo and his new fans!
Solar chicks!