STEM students gain valuable experience as they build, design and race our electric car

 

Aimed at encouraging new students into Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, the Greenpower Education Trust is a UK-based charity which challenges students from primary school age through to university to design, build and race an electric car.

They supply age-appropriate Kit Cars which can be built in schools, colleges or elsewhere and raced at Greenpower organised events. The Greenpower challenge uses the excitement of motorsport to inspire young people to choose and then excel in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects.  Working with over 700 teams throughout the UK involving 10,000 students, they hold over 35 regional events and an International Final each year.

Our team at Wilberforce will be taking part in the Hull Street Race on 28th April. This means that we needed to enter a test race this last weekend in a bid to get our car (brilliantly named Eileen!) into shape.

Building, maintaining and racing this car is another enrichment experience we offer our students. Under the watchful eye of our Engineering teacher Roger Waites, a group of students spend their spare time learning new skills and applying them to the project.  

Roger explained: “The GreenPower project is an excellent opportunity for students to learn new skills and work as a team. Together the happy band have followed industry practice by identifying problems, designing solutions, testing ideas and finally raising money to realise their dream. Those involved have learnt to take initiative, consult with others and take responsibility, skills that any employer would value. Although this project demands a lot of commitment the rewards are great. Whatever the outcome on 28th April all involved are winners.”

Leading the way on Saturday was student Ben Selway, 18, currently studying for a Level 3 extended diploma in Games Design.  Ben has been giving up his spare time recently after classes to sand down the fibre glass and modify some of the parts, whilst testing the batteries it runs off. 

Another of our students, James Booth, 17, currently studying A Level Maths, A Level Physics and for a Level 3 Diploma in Engineering  has also been giving up spare time both after and during college to help with the sanding, fibre glassing and shaping of the body work on the car. James was another of the drivers and engineers at the test race on 9th March.

The third person present at the test race was Ashley Bamford, (Level 3 Extended Diploma in Engineering). The Wilberforce Greenpower Team has been working together since September, exchanging ideas on how the GreenPower car can be changed and made better for future races. The car was originally designed around Ashley because he drove the car in July 2017 at the KCom race.

So, how did we do? The test race went well. Our team did experience some minor issues – when they originally signed up they were they given the car number 361 which turned out to be wrong as they were meant to be 561 – a problem easily fixed. The other minor concern was the weather!

Ben told us more about their experience: “Our car arrived at 8.00am having been brought by a friend of Roger’s on a trailer. The early start was good as we had some minor adjustments to make on the brakes and the steering, both solved by Ashley and a hammer! Our efforts paid off as the car successfully passed the scrutineering so we were good to race.”

At the Driver meeting they give us information regarding safety, track layout, how to drive the track correctly and then finally what to do in an accident situation; this is vital information which was needed for the test race so everyone knew what to do during the test race should anything happen. We then went straight onto the race track.”

It was at this point the rain, hail and wind arrived. Ben went first. The car battled gale-force winds. With the wind behind he sped down the track, against the wind the story was rather different. “Ashley was flagged down for having the wrong number and no transponder so we changed the 5 to a 3 and fitted a transponder. The circuit times could now be recorded. Still pouring down with rain all three of us took turns to drive the car, with our helmets covered in rain water making it hard to see and soaking wet gloves making it hard to steer. Once all we had all had a go we decided to go inside the café and find Roger, Milica and Paul as none of us could feel our hands or feet, that’s how cold it was!”

To get to the race our full GreenPower team has shown great dedication. Over the weeks they have raised over £500 by making and selling snowman decorations and specially designed ‘Family Trees’ This has helped raise the funds needed to contribute towards materials and the race entry fee.

We look forward to following their progress and cheering them on (yes…“Come on, Eileen!”).

Greenpower is helping to address the engineering skills gap. The Royal Academy of Engineering estimates that the UK needs 104,000 STEM graduates per year, and 56,000 technicians, between now and 2020.  Follow our students’ progress as they prepare their car, via their Twitter account.

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