02/18/13 — CBA Engineering Academy students building electric car

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CBA Engineering Academy students building electric car

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 18, 2013 1:46 PM

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Collin Hinnant, 15, and Cody Freels, 15, right, sit in a handmade, golf cart-sized car made of PVC pipes as they test out its steering.

Students in the Engineering Academy at Charles B. Aycock High School are building an electric car out of PVC pipes, thanks to a $3,000 Toolbox for Education Grant provided by Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation.

CBA is one of more than 1,100 schools or parent organizations to be awarded the grant for projects benefiting K-12 public education across the U.S. during the current school year.

The Engineering Academy, introduced at the school in 2008, features a Project Lead the Way-based curriculum. Project Lead the Way is a leading provider of rigorous and innovative science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, education programs.

The PVC car project is described as a "real world design project," and is to be completed as an after school engineering project as well as classroom effort. It incorporates the use of computer software and critical thinking skills as well as use of alternative energy options.

The grant stipulates that students will design, build and test an electric car that can hold two passengers. It is to be constructed using PVC pipe but other supplies can be obtained and services outsourced, such as metal working and machining or welding.

Since receiving notification of the funding in late October, Steven Thorne, director of the engineering academy, said his students have been busy working on the project.

"They started cutting it out before Christmas," he said. "Then after the break, since Christmas, they started back on it in mid-January and we have got I would say probably about 40 percent of the way through."

The bulk of the golf cart-type car is built from PVC pipe and connections, he said, but it also contains metal part and several bicycle components.

"We have had students donate bicycles. The wheels are bicycle wheels," he said.

Plans for the project were obtained online, Thorne explained, with students in his Principles in Engineering and Introduction to Engineering Design also weighing in with ideas and modifications. He said there are also between 10 and 15 students assisting in the project after school.

He expects the project will be finished next month.

"It will be driveable," he said. "It's going to actually be driven two different ways -- move forward with pedal power, so it'll be pedal-driven. But when we received the Lowe's grant, that allowed us to do additional things. We'll be able to make it electric. It will actually have an electric motor."

He said the car will be able to be driven up to 28 miles per hour.

Once done, Thorne said he has in mind several ways of taking it out on the road.

"We plan, I'm involved in Boy Scouts, so will demonstrate it at our local troop, and the middle school career fair was just held, we'll carry it for display next year, and we'll use it for open houses at schools, just things to promote my program," he said.

A graduate of CBA himself, Thorne takes great pride in being back at his alma mater and the evolution of the engineering program launched five years ago.

"It has most definitely grown," he said. "It has been very inspiring to me as a teacher to be able to teach the program that I'm teaching ... The kids want to learn a whole lot.

"It's just been fun. The kids have fun with it. It's interesting as far as the numbers have increased. We started out with only one or two girls and now I'm actually having more girls in it than boys, which has been a good thing."

Enrollment is flourishing, he said, with all his classes filled to capacity.

"I actually have 20 in a class," he said. "This semester I'm actually teaching right at 60 kids."