The Walker County Center of Technology automotive technology, collision repair and electricity classes have teamed together to build an electric car which will be used to go head-to-head in a car race.
“We got invited to participate in a race called Electrathon USA. The race consists of a one-hour race, how many laps you can run in an hour, with a 24-volt powered vehicle,” said WCCT automotive technology instructor Michael Craig. “The students assemble the vehicle and drive it in the race.”
Craig said this is the first time WCCT students will have competed in a race of this magnitude, which will be held at Barber Motorsports Park. The crew of approximately 15 students has been working on the car since January.
Starting from a lot of “parts in boxes” and an information manual, the car has turned into an aerodynamic piece of machinery that high school students have proudly constructed on their own.
The cost of the car kit alone is around $3,500, but Craig said it takes another $1,500 to complete the project.
“That doesn’t include assembly parts, like fasteners, or anything for appearance,” he said. “So, everything else after the $3,500 donation of the car comes out of our pocket, which has been through donations and sponsorships.”
The Cawaco Resource Conservation & Development of Central Alabama, with help from state Sen. Greg Reed, provided the car kit that students used to assemble the vehicle.
Craig added that Autozone in Jasper has donated an array of items, from batteries to all electrical needs.
Other sponsors that have donated or contributed in some way to help the students with their project include Star Automotive, EZ Auto Credit, Hunter Equipment, Myers Auto Sales and Rozar Paint.
Craig and collision repair instructor Anthony Myrick have a combined professional experience of more than 50 years in the automotive industry.
The two men joked Tuesday afternoon about how much has changed over the years not only in automobiles with their designs and the technology, but they also discussed how students now have all the knowledge and know-how at their fingertips rather than having to flip through numerous books.
“It interests the kids. They like to see something from nothing finished and able to do something with it. In classrooms and even in shops, it’s a lot of repetitive work, and they don’t see a finished product; they see parts of a finished product,” Craig said. “With this, they can see the beginning, end and see what it can do against other schools that are doing the same thing. There’s a sense of accomplishment.”
“You trick them into learning,” Myrick added. “... We want to get more students who want to take these classes we have up here because they’re seeing a benefit in it, not just a way to get out of a regular class.”
With the automotive industry constantly changing, Craig said there is never any repetition in the class.
He also mentioned how electronics are rapidly changing and when electronics are factored in with the mechanical side of automotives, it is fascinating to Craig.
“I try to share that passion with students. Technology changes all the time and through it’s change, the work isn’t the same,” Craig said. “You have something different to do every day. It’s a different challenge every day.”
That passion is starting to rub off onto area students who have been taking classes at the WCCT for a couple of years now. Dylan Moore, a senior at Carbon Hill High School, said the automotive industry runs in his blood.
“I think it’s actually pretty cool because I haven’t ever messed with electricity. I’m normally used to gas motors,” Moore said about the project. “I’m wanting to go to school at Bevill State on a scholarship for it. Everybody has done it [automotive work] in my family, and I guess I just follow after them.”
WCCT services seven high schools between both county and city districts. Those who are participating in the project include Moore, Austin Turner, Austin Dill, Will Bradford, Marcus Jordon, Alan Stafford, Zach Ward, Courtney Austin, Chance Mullinax, Brady Self, Brandon Smith, Scotty Hornsby — who will be the driver of the car — and Austin Couch.
Craig said they have recently received a grant from the Cawaco RC&D for a second car to work on for next year’s race.
He added that “our goal is to use the cars provided to build templates and start building cars from scratch with local vendors ... In the future we would like to have one car to represent each school and have local and regional competitions in our area.”
“It builds teamwork and pride in completing a project. ... We would like for our students on campus to take pride in coming here and take that pride back to their home school,” Craig said. “This competition will go a long way, especially if we do well in it.”