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Maxwell’s GreenPower Team Fires Up Electric Racecar

As students raced toward the end of school, Maxwell’s GreenPower Team suited up to test-drive their classroom-built electric car. They will compete with peers from across the state on June 4 at the University of Kentucky’s Kroger Field to cap this year’s new Gen-EV (Generation Electric Vehicles) program. Coordinated by UK’s Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER), the initiative drew 19 participating schools, including Maxwell Spanish Immersion, Ashland, Cassidy, Lansdowne, and Meadowthorpe elementaries, and the Rise STEM Academy for Girls.

“This is an amazing STEM project that is guiding our youngest FCPS students into a global realization of alternative energy resources, as well as building their engineering design concepts,” said Maxwell science teacher Amanda Heltzel, who also noted improved self-confidence as students gained skills.

Eleven-year-old Ronia Gawlik, for instance, can now tighten bolts with a ratcheting socket wrench and assemble circuits. “There are so many different parts of the car – mechanical and electrical – and we also designed the logo,” she said. With gasoline prices steadily rising, Ronia realizes the importance of developing other options, adding, “Fossil fuels might not last forever, and they pollute the environment.”

Maxwell’s GreenPower Team, an after-school club that meets on Thursdays, includes nearly two dozen students in grades 4 and 5. Through a grant from the state Energy & Environmental Cabinet’s Office of Energy Policy, CAER provided them with a kit and the tools to build their car, plus training for their teacher. The youngsters had to follow the engineering specs and diagrams to put the car together and did the wiring, too. They also designed the outside panels and learned to charge the batteries. “We got tons of metal parts, built the car, put on the wheels, and added electricity,” 10-year-old Jeremiah Dulaney recalled as he waited his turn for a practice run.

The club gathered for final test drives on a Monday afternoon in the parking lot at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. The nine students who clocked the best times will represent GreenPower in the statewide contests with three heats of a drag race, a circuit race, and a slalom through small plastic cones. The rest will serve as pit crew, equipment managers, and general helpers.

Throughout this semester, the students have picked up valuable experience in virtually all subject areas, with practice in public speaking and letter writing, fundraising, science, art, and math. Shiela Medina, assistant director for policy and engagement at CAER, said the Kentucky Labor Cabinet hopes to expand the Gen-EV program as part of workforce development – putting our children on the fast track to career success.


Video added June 18; posted May 25, 2022