Bobby Car Solar Cup

On course for a dream job with solar power

The expansion of renewable energy is generating an increase in demand for qualified specialists in the area of science and technology all over Germany. In Ostwestfalen-Lippe, the “Bobby Car Solar Cup” competition is using a playful approach to inspire schoolchildren’s interest in modern technology and is thereby already reaching out to the prospective engineers of tomorrow. Up until now, around 3,000 young people have taken an in-depth look at climate-friendly transport solutions in the course of the competition.

It involves an extraordinary car race held on the premises of the Bielefeld public utility company, which the Energie Impuls OWL e.V. corporate network has been inviting people to attend every year since 2008; Energie Impuls OWL is working on the project in collaboration with Ostwestfalen-Lippe VDI (the engineers’ association), and is supported by the Bielefeld public utility company, the city of Bielefeld and the Bielefeld business development association (WEGE). The racing cars that line up at the start of the “Bobby Car Solar Cup” are not standard toy cars, however: they are powered by electric motors and run entirely on solar energy. The drivers and car designers are schoolchildren in years eight to thirteen from all the general education and vocational schools in the region. Before they can demonstrate their skills on a driving agility course, however, they first of all have to transform the off-the-shelf Bobby cars into rapid solar-powered vehicles that are fit for racing. The teams that are made up of a minimum of five members have six months to accomplish this task.

Engine for progress:

  • An enjoyable and practical approach to career guidance in the field of technology
  • Awareness of future technology aimed at climate protection
  • Effective format for publicity
  • High potential for dissemination

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Photo: Energie Impuls OWL, Mike-Dennis Müller

The Bobby Car Solar Cup takes place in Bielefeld in September every year.

Close collaboration with companies

At the start of each year of the competition, all the teams are given the same equipment: a Bobby car, a solar kit and a “tuning manual” which sets out the exact rules. Companies in the region provide additional support. Each team chooses a partner company, which not only covers the costs of the components that “its” team needs, but also gives the schoolchildren practical support in developing the car. Under the skilled guidance of the company experts, the schoolchildren bolt and weld parts together, mill and fine tune components – while at the same time talking shop about how climate-friendly technology can become part of the real world. The result brings benefits for both sides: whilst the youngsters gain insights into the companies in their region and find out about future careers, the competition offers the participating companies an opportunity to connect with potential future employees and to work on joint projects with these young people.

The big race

In the end, however, it is all about lap times and race victories when the big race day takes place on the premises of the Bielefeld public utility company. Each team is represented by a driver who must be no more than nine years old and must weigh at least 20 kilos. Two days before the race, each team also presents its technical design to a jury. Not only is the roadworthiness of the Bobby car important at this stage, but technical creativity and skilled craftsmanship are also part of the evaluation. Alongside fame and honour, cash and special prizes to a total value of 1,500 euros await the winners.The competition has so far produced more than 200 solar-powered Bobby cars. The North Rhine-Westphalia office of the Federal Employment Agency sponsors the Bobby Car Solar Cup. After all, the concept of business partnerships has proved successful: the majority of the youngsters who have taken part in the competition until now have become enthusiastic about technical careers as a result of their contact with the companies, and have chosen to take up apprenticeships in this field; 100 of the schoolchildren even started their training in their respective partner company. Last but not least, the project generally inspires interest in the topics of solar energy and electromobility, both on the part of the young people involved and amongst the spectators at the high-profile race.

Photo: Energie Impuls OWL

“Not only do the youngsters develop their professional aspirations while constructing the Bobby cars in the companies, they are also able to contribute and implement their own ideas for creating sustainable and climate-friendly transport for the future.”

Monika Pieper, Project Manager, Energie Impuls OWL

Partners and sponsors

  • Energie Impuls OWL e.V.
  • VDI Ostwestfalen Lippe
  • Stadt Bielefeld
  • Stadtwerke Bielefeld
  • WEGE Wirtschaftsentwicklungsgesellschaft Bielefeld