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Dell's big R&D bet – Solar Power

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It turns out that Dell Computer does invest in research and development - just not for computers.

Around 100 students today met in Round Rock, Texas at Dell HQ to kick off the eighth annual Dell-Winston Solar Car Challenge. The high schoolers are to head out on the open road and make their way from Texas to Florida in solar-powered vehicles.

Don't let the Winston brand fool you. These race cars are not backed by the same cigarette-maker that sponsors NASCAR. No, this is the Dallas-based Winston School, which focuses on "realizing the potential of bright children who learn differently through individualized learning."

"The Dell-Winston Solar Car Challenge is an example of how companies can do their part to provide students with 21st century skills that are now required in the 21st century workforce," said John Bailey, director of technology, U.S. Department of Education, in a statement.

If only Dell could apply the same principles to its PC and server groups. A few more R&D dollars, and they too could be trained for the 21st century workforce. But rest assured, should the computer business collapse, Dell will be primed to take its direct model to solar car building.

Throughout the nine-day race, the students will use Dell notebooks and wireless technology to check on solar car battery usage, weather and competitors. The really smart kids will turn the solar panels off and run off the juice from Dell's notebooks. A mild case of penis burn is a small price to pay for victory.

A much larger solar race began this weekend in Chicago. Racers in the American Solar Challenge are heading across the U.S. in a 2,300-mile race that will end up in Claremont, California - home of Pomona College. The cars can travel up to 70 mph. ®

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