High school students from around the country crossed the starting line July 16 in the 12th annual Dell-Winston School Solar Car Challenge, a 2,020-mile road race in hand-built, solar-powered cars.

The nine participating teams began preparing more than a year ago, engineering their cars from the ground up to weather the nine-day, eight-state course. Cars must wind their way through Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Ohio and Pennsylvania before reaching the finish line in Newburgh, N.Y.

Dr. Lehman Marks, race director, noted the broad spectrum of lessons the program offers students. Besides harnessing technology to complete a challenging project, the students develop communication and teamwork skills, he said. The program also brings attention to alternative energy sources and environmental responsibility, which is vitally important to our global community.

"The Dell-Winston School Solar Car Challenge helps students become more aware of the environment and the world around them," said George Gray, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's assistant administrator for research and development. "EPA supports Dell's commitment to the environment and their efforts to help students innovate. Groundbreaking ideas generated by innovative minds pay enormous dividends which include growing our economy, reducing pollution, increasing energy efficiency and improving the lives of future generations."

The Dell-Winston School Solar Car Challenge is one of many initiatives Dell supports as part of its overall commitment to environmental leadership, including worldwide free recycling of used Dell equipment; Plant a Tree for Me to help customers offset carbon emissions from their computers; and recently announced long-term efforts to partner with customers to become the greenest technology company on Earth and to reduce the carbon intensity of its global operations 15 percent by 2012.

This race gives young thinkers the opportunity to understand first hand the power of being part of the Re-Generation, this global community of people of all ages who want to improve and sustain the earth we share, said Karen Bruett, Dells director of K-12 business development. United by a commitment to their education and the planet and armed with 21st-century skills like teamwork, problem solving, math and science, these students hold the keys to the future.

As the title sponsor since 2001, Dells participation reflects its commitment to education and the importance of students developing 21st-century skills. The program teaches students how to build and safely race roadworthy solar cars and gives them research, critical thinking and teamwork skills. Teams use Dell notebooks with wireless technology to design and engineer their solar cars for the race. During the race, they use them to gauge solar car battery usage, monitor weather patterns, track competitors via global positioning systems and upload daily statistics to the race Web site to help judges, parents and fans track team progress. Visit the race Web site for a complete race schedule, team profiles and a detailed route: www.winstonsolar.org/challenge.