A Kiwi rite-of-passage dealt a blow by modern life is enjoying resurgence thanks to a new, hands-on initiative rolled out across Waikato secondary schools.
EVolocity Waikato, a competition where students design, build and race their own electric vehicles, is being credited for reviving the tradition of young people learning manual skills from working alongside a mentor in a workshop.
With the assistance of mentors from Waikato engineering businesses, teachers and tertiary organisations, EVolocity competitors are learning such skills, as well as solving problems, using tools, making mistakes and working on their electric vehicle until it is ready to race.
More than 70 students from 12 schools are taking part in the regional competition for the first time this year, designing and building their own electric cart or bike equipped with an electric motor kit.
Next month they will go head-to-head, racing their vehicles in a drag race and on a street circuit to see which schools’ electric vehicles will go on to compete in the national finals in Christchurch on November 27.
Competition scrutineer and mentor Stew Lister, of Hamilton, has been working alongside a group of students from St John’s College to help them get to grips with workshop skills once handed down from generation to generation.
EVolocity is filling a gap caused in some cases by absent or unskilled parents but mostly by digital technology competing for the attention of young people, Stew said.
“Learning with your hands is as important as learning with your head but that’s been a bit lost in today’s society because there’s so much competing for a young person’s attention. EVolocity means they can be mentored throughout their project and learn those things. They can also be free to learn from their mistakes, which is just as important,” Stew said.
Stew raced and promoted solar powered vehicles in the 1990s, winning his class at the 3006km-long World Solar Challenge from Darwin to Adelaide in 1994. He sees EVolocity as a progression from the solar powered car model kits he distributed to 240 secondary schools throughout New Zealand in the 1990s.
“For me EVolocity is an extension of that work so it’s great to be involved. The students appreciate the help of a mentor and it’s great to see their confidence growing.”
Waikato Engineering Careers Association manager Mary Jensen agrees the competition is sparking renewed interest in hands-on learning at secondary schools.
“It’s definitely filling a gap in today’s society and allows a young person to work alongside their peers and be mentored in a group situation. It has been a very positive experience for them and, as well as teaching hands-on skills, it also sparking interest in subjects like engineering, maths and science,” Mary said.
WECA is co-ordinating EVolocity in the region and its engineering company members, along with Wintec, the University of Waikato, WEL Energy Trust, Powerco, Waipa Network, Trust Waikato, DV Bryant Trust and Len Reynolds Trust are supporting the initiative.
Vehicles in the competition will be judged on speed economy, rolling resistance and motor control. Other prizes will be awarded for innovation and sustainability, with extra points for body design, bling, creatively dressed teams and community awareness.
A final EVolocity Waikato Build Day will be held this weekend (September 3), where vehicles will be scrutineered by Stew and teams provided with a checklist of fixes required.
Vehicles will be scrutineered a second time before the regional final, to be held at Kartsport Hamilton, Airport Rd, Friday September 16, from midday. Members of the public are welcome.
For more information:
EVolocity Waikato co-ordinator
022 372 0335