Students at 32 Hamilton County schools are applying STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) to design, build and race electric cars for the Chattanooga Green Prix. The upcoming race is on Friday and Saturday at Chattanooga State Community College, and is coordinated by local non-profit, green|spaces.
The program started in 2017 with just seven schools and rapidly after reviews by the teachers and students involved in the program spread throughout schools in the region.
After the first race in March 2018, Sue Williamson with the STEM School said, “Even though we work in an environment with multiple project opportunities, this one is unique in so many ways. To see students working collaboratively throughout the entire build process was amazing. Our team was comprised of mostly ninth graders, so they went from not knowing each other to learning to work and grow together. They learned so much math and science as they had to trouble-shoot issues leading up to race day. During the actual race, I loved watching how they were able to troubleshoot and find solutions to get the car back onto the track. Most importantly, they had a blast. My kids are already talking about what they would do different to modify the body to make it more aerodynamic.”
"This program is increasingly relevant after Volkswagen announced the expansion of its Chattanooga plant to build their future electric cars," officials said. "Even before that, Volkswagen has been investing in its future workforce through the installation of e-Labs in area schools. Nine of the local Green Prix teams have been using their VW e-Labs for the construction of the cars."
"The VW e-Lab has been essential to the construction and design of our car. We have used everything from tools for chassis assembly to CAD software and printers for body and livery design,” said Soddy Daisy Middle e-Lab Instructor Anthony Henderson. Soddy Daisy Middle recently attended a regional race and placed second overall in the event.
Dalewood Middle was one of the pilot schools in 2017. Today, they are using their VW e-Lab to take their car to the next level by using digital fabrication and problem solving to make custom parts for their Green Prix car. They hope in the future to be able to create a fully customized car.
“We are inspired by these students and proud to see their successes,” said Amanda Plecas, spokesperson for Volkswagen Chattanooga. “Each team explored new technologies and gained real-world project management experience. This program builds vital skills, not only in technical areas; problem-solving, creativity and collaboration emerge during the process. We champion the values and share the goals of engaging STEAM experiences like the Chattanooga Green Prix.”
Other schools using their VW e-Labs include Howard High, Red Bank Middle, Red Bank High School, Brainerd High, Hixson Middle, Ooltewah Middle and Orchard Knob Middle.
For full details on the Chattanooga Green Prix including race times and open volunteer positions, visit http://www.greenspaceschattanooga.org/chattanooga-green-prix/.