From parts to pit stop: helping young engineers race and build an electric vehicle

A blog post by Catherine Prothero.

Over the last 2 years, the APC has sponsored 15 schools through their competition with the prize of a Greenpower kit car. This month we were delighted to join a group of very excited 11 year olds from two schools at Rockingham motor speedway to compete in a Greenpower Formula Goblin race – Richard Crosse Primary School (supported by WMG) and Stoke Primary School (supported by the APC).

Back in February myself and my colleagues at the APC met the Stoke Primary School year 6 students to get them started on their journey of the Greenpower programme. The children were given a DIY electric car, with the challenge of building the car designing the body and then racing it. The programme is a fantastic way to bring STEM subjects to life and introduce careers like mechanical engineering as early as possible to students in a really fun and hands on way.

The whole class were eager to start and couldn’t wait for the chance to race. The students took it in turns to build the car working as part of the curriculum during one lesson per week (with helpers from the APC) and an after school club. I knew about as much as the students about building an electric car, but it was a joy to learn with them as they built…even if I wasn’t a huge help.

The whole class came to the race day to support their team and see the months of hard work in action. They took part in 6 slaloms, 6 sprints and 1 grand prix race. The team did really well with their different driving styles coming through from fearless to cautious, they all had a great time and gave it their full effort. They were very happy to come in third place in the drag race as there were a few experienced teams to compete against.

We ended the day with a special APC race with the Richard Crosse Primary School team against the Stoke Primary school team in a relay. Richard Crosse won the race after a fantastic effort and lots of cheering from both teams. Anthony Allen from WMG who supported Richard Crosse Primary School said: “It’s been a real delight to see the pupils at Richard Crosse School build and race their Formula Goblin kit-car.  The whole-school bodywork design competition run by Year 5, and the weekly video commentaries uploaded to you-tube have made it a real community project, for which the children were rewarded on race day at Rockingham with the Spirit of Greenpower award.  Class 5 have also earned a total of forty-seven Greenpower STEM awards from the AQA exam board for their individual portfolio work undertaken alongside the car build itself which is a fantastic achievement embedding their practical skills with knowledge of design, manufacturing and systems engineering”.

At the end of the day, year 6’s teacher said that “they had a fantastic time and the teachers are currently arguing over who can build it with the students next year. It was a brilliant opportunity for them, which we couldn’t normally offer”. She later mentioned that the students love their car so much that instead of the usual disco for their end of year celebration the students asked to have a BBQ and take it in turns riding their car around the playground.

The students clearly enjoyed their Greenpower journey and made the most of the opportunity. I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of it. Watch this space – there might be some future mechanical engineers in the making.