Students representing 10 high schools from across Kansas gathered in Frontier Park in Hays on Thursday for the 16th annual ElectroRally races.

Approximately 120 participated by either providing maintenance, prepping, racing or counting laps during the event.

“In 1999, I first got started with Kansas ElectroRally,” said FHSU Technology Leadership Program Coordinator Joseph Chretien. “We did the very first one in the parking lot at Gross Memorial Coliseum.”

Since then, the event has grown, evolving from a smaller, summer activity to a large, fall competition involving numerous schools.

“Kansas ElectroRally is basically an extension of Electrathon America,” Chretien said. “It’s racing electric cars that have half-horsepower motors and a couple of batteries to see how many laps you can get out of the car.”

As family, friends and fellow classmates observed from the sidelines, student-operated electric cars lapped around a designated area in Frontier Park.

The machines were built by the students themselves, either during school hours in engineering and design classes, or during after-school programs.

“In some schools, it’s a combination of the two,” Chretien said.

Students from schools including Hays High, Wheatland-Grinnell, Hoisington, Scott City, Ellinwood, Sylvan-Lucas, Hodgeman County, Olathe Northwest, Great Bend and Chase participated in Thursday’s competition.

Builders were instructed to craft cars with certain qualifications and limitations. Each car had to carry a minimum of 180 pounds of cargo, be a maximum of 10 feet long and 4 feet wide, wheel-to-wheel, and have a maximum of 74 pounds of battery, according to Chretien.

Students also received the choice of creating either a standard car or a solar car.

“A solar car is the exact same thing, but you’re allowed to put at least one meter of solar panel on your car to aid the batteries,” Chretien said.

Such instructions and limitations were put in place to create a design challenge for students.

“We want them to design a car that will win races with these limitations,” Chretien said.

Hays High assistant principal Tom Albers said it’s not always the fastest car that comes out on top. Success in the competition requires a combination of driver skill and car design.

“The idea is to not have a breakdown,” he said. “When it’s all said and done, steady wins the race.”

The competition consisted of two different heats lasting 60 minutes each. Winners were determined by the drivers with the highest number of laps completed in that time frame.

With the event being Hays High’s home meet, Hays High junior Brent Koenigsman said he was excited to compete.

“I’ve learned you have to keep consistent through the throttle,” he said. “A lot of people try to be the first ones out there, but you just need to keep it consistent.”

Jill Prewo attended in support of several Wheatland-Grinnell student racers. Her son, junior Cory Prewo, raced in the second heat of the competition.

“Not everyone can be an athlete, and this gives a few other kids the chance to participate and compete,” Jill Prewo said. “It’s just an awesome experience for everyone.”