High-Speed Learning

June 4, 2010

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Armed with big dreams for tiny ladybug-inspired vehicles to those that recall the sleek lines of Japanese drift cars, middle- and high-school students from around the region raced their way through NC State’s first Sustainable Transportation Education Program (STEP), held in late May outside the McKimmon Center.

“It’s a STEM-based – science, technology, engineering and math – curriculum, so they are learning about electric vehicles, charging stations, smart grid and green careers,” said Dr. Pam Carpenter, K-12 Education Specialist at the North Carolina Solar Center, “but it’s [also] engaging them in learning these concepts so we’re preparing a well-skilled and trained workforce.”

Co-hosted by the Solar Center – part of NC State’s College of Engineering – and the College of Education, the STEP event helped educate students about the sustainable transportation and the electrification of transportation (including electric vehicles).

Four high schools and 12 middle schools from around the region participated in the competition, which helped promote sustainable energy within a friendly, informal atmosphere.  Teams were judged on range, speed, and design of their vehicles, as well as the design and functionality of their solar charging stations.

“It was all pretty fun,” said Emily Rodrigo of Durham’s Carolina Friends School. “My favorite part was seeing the cars race, because it’s all pretty amazing.”

In advance of future events, STEP leaders hope to increase participation among area middle and high schools, but open the event to community-college students as well.

“The event is designed to get middle and high school students interested in sustainable energies, changing infrastructure, as well as careers in engineering and in science,” said Dr. William DeLuca, associate professor of technology education in NC State’s College of Education.

“The students are the future, so part of our program is to educate [them] about this changing infrastructure and how it may impact their lives.”