Tampa Bay students learn science with electric race cars - WFLA News Channel 8

Tampa Bay students learn science with electric race cars

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Students getting the car ready for the race. Students getting the car ready for the race.
They zoom around the track, running on battery and brain power. Electric race cars are driving home important principles in science, technology, engineering and math for some Bay Area high school students.

At Brandon High School, Cody Avant is the President of the Electric Eagle Racing Team. The team has built two electric race cars that race against other schools in Electrathon Races during the year.  In order to compete, students put their physics knowledge to use.

"You have to have tires that don't wobble because you want less rolling resistance," said Avant. "You want aerodynamics, so we have nose cones on ours," he continued.

The Electric Eagles race against electric race car teams from three other Hillsborough County schools. Tampa Bay Technical High School is hosting the last race of the season this year on March 22. This is the first year teams from Wharton High School and Strawberry Crest High School are competing.  Middleton High School is building a new car and will be ready to race next year.

"It does teach them a lot of problem-solving skills, which is crucial because not everything is going to be black and white in the real world," said Electric Eagles Adviser Mark Knowlton.

The cars take three to six months to build, and during each phase of the project, the students use STEM concepts.

"We use controllers that they have to hook laptops up to program," said Knowlton. "They use the engineering side to set up gear patterns to run the cars on certain tracks."

Choosing the correct gear is a team effort and is a critical part of the racing strategy. Electraton races are more about endurance. Each race lasts one hour, and each team tries to make as many laps as possible in that hour. The members must balance the need for speed with the need to conserve battery power to last the full hour.

"You can put a big gear on it, so it can go 60 mph, but to spin up the big gear it takes more battery power," Avant explained. "You want to have a small enough gear, so that you can go fast enough but not too fast."

According to Electrathon of Tampa Bay's website, Electrathon racing is a relatively new. It started in 1990s in Australia, and it has grown in popularity in parts of the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.

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