Inspiring the next generation of green technology innovators

Gilly Durkin, National Networks Coordinator at the APC’s Electric Machine Spoke (led by Newcastle University), took the lead for their part in the 2019 Greenpower competition. Each year, the Advanced Propulsion Centre and its Spoke Community work with primary schools across the UK to design, build and race their own electric vehicle kit cars. Gilly penned some thoughts following one of the competitions.


In June I was lucky enough to watch Bridgewater Primary School from Benwell take part in the Greenpower 2019 race event at Gateshead Stadium. Bridgewater Primary School were our successful winner this year. A team of technicians from Newcastle University and I had the pleasure of attending the school to help the children unpack the kit and help build an electric goblin car to race!

Children from Bridgewater Primary School with Dave OudeNijeweme, Head of Technology Trends – APC UK.


They came up with the idea of dressing the car in recycling materials, including thin plastic to make the body. To decorate it, they added stickers provided by Mercedes, who sponsored the school for the bodywork and race kit. The children thought that they had been wasting too many plastic bottles in school, so they decided to save the bottle tops and straws to decorate the car. They made a bumper with the straws and used the bottle tops and crisp packets to make leaves. They decided to stick with the theme of leaves as it was part of their original design for their car of 2050 – the design that won this competition in the first place!

It was an absolute pleasure to see how interested the children were to take part in the build process. I can now see how competitions like this one can help children from an early age become interested in engineering. Out of the class of 25 children, I can definitely see at least two engineers….. and maybe a couple of racing drivers too!

It was great to see how over the few months I worked with the class, they engaged in this project and how excited they are were to take part. Bridgewater did really well at the event and came second in one of the fastest lap races. They held their trophy up just like they had won the World Cup….. I was truly proud of Bridgewater School. Even the children who were sitting watching the races were making up songs to sing when it was their turn to race.

This will be one of my fondest memories I will take away from working with the Advanced Propulsion Centre. If competitions like these carry on within schools at such an early age, I can tell you that the skills gap in engineering will become smaller.

Congratulations Bridgewater Primary……. I will miss our build days, but I hope to see you at next years’ local race. Thank you to the Advanced Propulsion Centre for making this happen, Mercedes for sponsoring the bodywork, race kit and for helping with the build process and to the technicians at Newcastle University who also took time out of their working day to help with the build process. What a fantastic experience we have all had.

Quotes from the children:

“My favourite part was when we used recyclable materials to decorate the car. We used crisp packets, milk bottle tops and straws.”

“I loved seeing our friends race the car, we kept shouting our school’s name from the stands. My friend’s part was really important as he did the final lap and got second place!”

“I loved practising racing the car in the yard. Everyone got a turn and no-one was left out.”

“I enjoyed racing and building the car. There are not many places where you can build and race a car… it was the chance of a lifetime!”

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