West Greene FFA members may soon find themselves chanting, “Boogity, boogity, boogity, let’s go racing boys!” at the Bristol Motor Speedway as they cheer on their solar go-kart made from scratch.
Twenty high school teams from Upper East Tennessee will be competing May 8 on the Tennessee short track, all in the name of STEM.
“This has been a great opportunity for collaboration for teachers, who may otherwise never get to work together. We have a robotics, math, history and agriculture teacher leading our project and it has been awesome getting to look into what they teach and what they bring to the team,” said Chase Murray, West Greene FFA Advisor. “This project was designed to promote the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Program. I have seen how each aspect of this model comes into play and how it can all work together for one common goal.”
The solar go-kart project is the brainchild of a $100,000 grant that was written by the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Directors of the First Tennessee District. Each program competing was given $3000.00 for total construction of the kart, with certain limitations on how the money must be spent.
Murray, who serves as an advisor and coach for the team, started with eight West Greene FFA students contributing, but since the project has taken off, several other students have come forward to work on the go-kart. His students are in charge of fabrication, testing, wiring, and electrical components.
“The students think that this project is just the coolest thing we have ever done. Every day that they come into class, they want to work on the go-kart,” Murray said. “It is something that we have taken pride in and hope to see flourish in the future.”
Murray said the students are the ones that have driven the project up to this point.
“It has been amazing to see their drive and determination. When we get to a point and cannot go any further, they take it and run with it to figure out the next step,” Murray said. “I have also enjoyed seeing the satisfaction they have gotten from the struggle. These concepts for the solar powered portion especially have been a challenge, but the students have stepped up and persevered through adversity.”
None of the coaches on the West Greene team had any experience with solar power prior to the project. The team has spent many hours looking at diagrams, watching YouTube videos, and collaborating to figure out how it works.
Another challenge has been brake caliper. During a practice meet against 11 other teams in March at Grandview Elementary in Telford, Tennessee, the caliper locked up and warped the rotor. The team is currently trying to figure out a way to fix this issue before the big race.
Regardless, Murray said the practice gave the team an idea of where they stand compared to the other teams and allowed them the opportunity to gather data to use going forward.
The Bristol competition will include four parts: a speed race, an endurance race, a car show, and a video presentation of the progress throughout the entire build. The event will start at noon and is open to the public.
Murray said he hopes the students have learned that through perseverance, “you can do anything you set your mind to.”
“This project has been a major undertaking and has taken much time and effort to complete,” Murray said. “I hope that they can see that hard work does pay off and that it is important to give your best efforts no matter the outcome.”
We wish West Greene the best of luck in a few weeks. As they say at the track, “there’s racing … and then there’s Bristol!”