SUSSEX COUNTY - Last week's burst of summery weather was a welcome sight for many area children. But for a group of middle school students in the Junior Solar Sprints, that sunshine meant fuel. About 200 students from 12 local schools competed in the Sussex County area solar sprints on Wednesday, May 12, to determine who built the fastest solar-powered car. The middle schoolers were as excited about the sun powering their cars as they were about spending a sunny day outside of the classroom. "This was fun," said Joey Palazzi of McKeown School. "We lost, but we got a day off school." He and his team built "Junkyard Dog," a car covered with brown fur with googly eyes, in their science class over the past four months. The car didn't win for speed, but took fourth place in the Students' Choice category. It competed against cars with such names as "Voodoo Monkey," "Rainbow Racer," "Spaz Attack," "Blue Lightning" and "Solar Patriot." The winners of last week's countywide race will compete against teams from Morris and Warren counties in an inter-county final race on May 22. Winners from there will go on to the Northeast regional race in June. The contest, sponsored by TransOptions Inc., is to promote alternative, non-polluting energy sources and to get kids excited about studying environmental and technical innovations, said Kristy Wellins, coordinator of the competition. "It all went very well," Wellins said. "Everything ran smoothly, the weather cooperated and the kids had a great time." The students spent months building their cars and experimenting with solar panels, some in their science classes and others in after-school science clubs. The number of teams was limited, so some schools had to have their own run-off races to decide which cars were going to the county race. In addition to speed, the cars compete in areas of technical merit, craftsmanship, innovation, and for a student choice award.