STEM students get e-car race fever

Excited about engineering, students set sights on more races



ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Car No. 55 came in third place during their debut into the world of electric car racing last month, but the momentum, experience and achievement the team has gained is unbeaten.

The 17 members of the Forsyth Central High School STEM Academy (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) team paired with three Siemens Hybrid Drive Technologies Division engineers — Shawn Pinnock, Brian Munari and P.J. Craig – to really put the pedal to the fiberglass.

“It’s rewarding to see how quickly they grasped the concepts,” said Craig, who provided guidance and instruction to the students.

Thomas Orberger, who manages the Siemens Hybrid Drives division, said engineers had a lot of fun mentoring students to find real-world solutions to tech-glitches. In addition, Siemens hybrid drives teams donated about $7,500 to cover costs of materials and equipment to build the competitive car.

“The students faced some of the same problems and issues we face on our day-to-day operations,” Orberger said. “The students did the design, the project and came up with the idea.”

Working countless hours, the engineering students at Central met the tight deadline of May 11 for the Electrathon America Electric Vehicle Race in Quitman, Ga.

The race was also a learning experience for the STEM students.

Not understanding the nuances of battery management during their first race, they ran out of juice before the end of the one hour time allotment, completing 53 laps.

“However, learning quickly from our mistakes, we recovered,” said David Johnson, STEM teacher at Central HS. In the second race, the team finished only one lap behind the winner, with 60 laps to Grayson High School’s 61 laps.

On June 12, Siemens hosted team members from Forsyth Central STEM Academy at its manufacturing plant, 100 Technology Drive in Alpharetta south Forsyth County.

Ice-cream was served along with a presentation by the students and there was even a live demonstration of the student-built fully electric car — which can reach speeds of 45 miles per hour.

Bradley Schuford, a junior at Central HS, was the e-car’s driver and project manager. He said the team designed many of the e-car’s parts and used 3-D printers to manufacture.

This project took engineering concepts and gave students real-world application to the problems they encountered, said Nathaniel Green, a junior at Central.

Johnson, the STEM teacher, said the race team has already set their sights on their next project, a stronger, faster version of car No. 55 — named for the year Central HS opened. They are also gearing to race at least three more times next school year.

“By doing a project like this, it’s engaging, it’s exciting and it’s not just something they are doing in theory,” said Johnson. “They are actually manufacturing a vehicle that they are going to get in and race.”

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