Educator Brings UK’s Academic Race to the United States
Greenpower goes global
When high school drafting design instructor Mike Evans discovered Greenpower, the academic electric car competition, he had no idea how far it would take him and his students. In less than three years, the team from Alabama’s Huntsville Center of Technology’s (HCT) went from drafting Solid Edge models for the UK based competition, to becoming the first international high school team, and now starting the competition in America.
“It started with an introduction from Mike Brown who oversees Siemens’ mainstream engineering global academic programs,” said Evans. “We had a long relationship with Siemens so he asked us to reverse engineer the F-24 kit car in Siemens Solid Edge software for Greenpower’s UK CEO Jeremy Way. When Jeremy saw the students’ models he invited us to build a car and enter the race.”
Greenpower started back in 1999 with a dream of supporting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education. Building and racing the electric cars inspires and engages students of all ages to pursue STEM subjects.
“The Greenpower Challenge is the only academic competition to cover the entire range of education,” said Brown. “Students grow, bringing the competition from primary school to middle school, high school, university, and even grad school. This has created an interesting dynamic where young students can race in front of corporate teams like Aston Martin or Jaguar Land Rover.”
Evans is now the CEO of GreenpowerUSA and his team has become a benchmark for the competition’s growth into the US. His plan to expand the organization in the states mirrors his experiences.
“It’s all about getting teachers and industry to see the need for collaboration. Once you get corporations investing in youth they realize they are also investing in the future of their companies. Title and team sponsors, like Siemens PLM software, realize that students use their products to design the car and grow into potential employees or customers.” said Evans.
He added, “As for the teachers, they will love the cross curricula education. You can walk into a physics class and study the rolling resistance, electronics, and aerodynamics of the car. The team can use this knowledge in their design and manufacturing classes to improve the performance of their car.”
Teaching Beyond a Textbook at Greenpower
Greenpower gives students the chance to work with industry leading hardware and software from 3D printers to Siemens’ Solid Edge software. The HCT team, for instance, would frequently design in Solid Edge, print a prototype, test the design, and iterate.
Teams can start with a kit car until they gain the experience, funding, and confidence to build a car from scratch. The kit cars are also a great way to give less fortunate schools the opportunity to compete.
The Greenpower competition replicates the engineering process, success, and failure that occurs in industry. Students test materials (aluminum, titanium, and steel) to optimize their car for speed, cost, and safety.
Similar to real life, the race cars must meet safety standards before they can compete. Brown said, “As the team becomes more experienced they can pass the kit onto a younger team and build a car from scratch. The Greenpower challenge gives students skills and experience which they can take to a job or university.”
This focus on applied knowledge is what attracted Evans to the competition. “Greenpower offers students a way to prepare to successfully enter the workforce. It also offers educators a way to get out of the textbook. My joy comes from seeing students learn the teambuilding, advanced manufacturing, and design skills they need to be productive in industry. It is inspirational to see students mature and give their presentations in front of important corporations.”
Attracting Non-Traditional STEM Students
This non-traditional cross curricular educational style of project based learning has also attracted many students you would typically not see entering a STEM program. The proof is in the numbers as over 40% of participants are female. And these female students are happy to take the lead.
“The girls at Greenpower are natural leaders. It’s not about boys and girls it’s about a coordinated team. And when girls are in a lead role the boys follow,” said Brown.
HCT’s Sean Webb is another example of a student who was inspired by the Greenpower challenge. He used to have little interest in school. As a grease monkey, his interests pointed him towards cars and motors, but Greenpower worked as a way to bridge that gap.
“Our students get hooked and become role models for younger students. Sean was always a responsible and respectful student searching for direction. He didn’t know the engineering pathways that were available. With Greenpower given him a direction and goal, he made it onto the presidential and dean’s lists. He now works as an intern at Siemens PLM software and promotes Greenpower to others,” said Evans.
Greenpower competitions will be the first time many of these students leave their county, let alone state. It will open their eyes to possible careers and lives they would never have realized existed.
As for those Solid Edge models that Evans’ team created, in the spirit of true sportsmanship they shared them with the other teams. “Not all of the teams have the resources we do,” said Evans.
“These models open the door for these teams to explore different designs. We want to see students succeed. They need to learn so we will not share every secret, but we want to reduce barriers so everyone can compete.”
For more information about the Greenpower Challenge visit their website.
Students and educators are welcome to download a free copy of Solid Edge:
Learn more: Huntsville schools' 'Greenpower USA' program, advanced manufacturing academy helped reel Polaris in
The Henry Ford welcomes the Siemens Solid Edge team as a guest contributor to Past Forward.
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