Teen project could power teachers' cars
A student investigation into generating sustainable power at a Taranaki high school may soon have teachers lining up to charge their electric vehicles at the school.
New Plymouth Girls’ High School students have collaborated with parents, teachers and the community on investigating innovative and environmentally sustainable energy generation for use in electric vehicles.
The teens' research was done in two parts, the first based on energy generation, and a second on electric vehicles (EVs).
Two students, Jessica Frost and Breanna Camden, won several science awards for their first investigative project Watt about the weather? on the use of solar panels and wind turbines to produce energy at the school whare on Tūhonohono Marae.
Jessica also went on to be selected for Powering Potential 2019 - a Curious Minds-supported programme run by Royal Society Te Apārangi in which year 12 and 13 students are challenged to find answers to big problems in just three days.
The students got to drive the EVs they made. Photo: Mark Robotham.
Girls build electric vehicles
A second group of six year 11 students used old bike parts, motors from ebikes and scrap metal to build and design two EVs as part of the Evolocity schools challenge.
The cars, named Rivet Koopa King and Cyclops, competed at the regional competition in Hamilton, with Cyclops qualifying for the national finals event.
Both the energy generation and EVs projects have drawn close interest from the school's teachers, particularly those who have desires to purchase EVs. “They have been asking 'When can I plug in my car?'” says science teacher and project mentor Athol Hockey.
“We connected five solar panels via an inverter to the grid and have had the inspection done to ensure we were compliant. Now that it is completed, teachers could plug their cars in to a wall socket and be charged through electricity coming from the solar panels during daylight hours.”
Rivet Koopa King in the racing pit. Photo: Mark Robotham.
School generating its own power
This was all possible because the project prompted a local computer company to donate the large solar panels, enabling the school to generate a small amount of its own power. The panels can produce in excess of 6 kW hours of electricity daily to the national power grid – meaning a small subsidy on the school’s monthly power bill.
Through the EV project the students learnt how electrical connections and motors worked and used computer technology to programme their vehicle’s controller. “It was a bit of a learning curve connecting up these vehicles as they have to be built a certain way.”
The EV project began with work on an entry in the WITT Taranaki Science Fair, where the students created a vehicle using a trolley and recycled metal from desks and children’s bikes. Their electric vehicle won the Technology category, received innovation and engineering awards, and was awarded a $1000 Beca Tertiary Scholarship.
Despite winning these awards, the vehicle didn’t comply with Evolocity steering and chassis requirements, so the students went back to the drawing board.
Two of the students with the original vehicle that won at the WITT Taranaki Science Fair.
Back to the drawing board
A new frame was designed and built, and with its 1000 watt hub motor and 48 volt lithium batteries, Cyclops was born.
The car was a fast competitor at the Evolocity regional finals in Hamilton, winning the “most innovative engineering” award because it was the only vehicle that could reverse.
The students involved in developing and racing the EVs were Amber Winch, Vamika Satrasala, Vaela Mendoza, Elana Nicholas, Zoe Turner and Hana Yim.
Student driving Cyclops around a corner at Evolocity.
Athol says as well as the practical learning, the students relished the opportunity to learn to drive. “They were really keen to get in and drive. They loved that.”
“Most of these girls had not driven a vehicle before so this is a learning experience not only from a driving that point of view but also with regard to driving safety.”
In future, further improvements will be made and the vehicle will be able to compete against the best in New Zealand. Athol says the whole project has been an extremely valuable learning experience for the students.
He says the school will also continue to extend all students’ learning in sustainable energy generation by using all the equipment set up during these projects.
The students at Evolocity with science teacher and mentor Athol Hockey (centre).
About the project
This project was run by New Plymouth Girls’ High School with support from local companies Rivet Engineering, E2 Bikes, Computer Sense, Plug N Play Electronics, Motiv Parts Supply, Open Polytechnic staff and Powerco, with funding from the Taranaki Participatory Science Platform via Venture Taranaki.
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