Students take learning outside the classroom

SAN BENITO — Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.

The students of San Benito are taking their education out of the classroom and onto the racetrack.

A group of juniors and seniors have been coming together on the weekends and after school to work on electric race cars.

The GreenPower Electric Car initiative began a year ago at the request of UTRGV and started with three school districts in the Valley including Santa Rosa CISD, La Feria CISD and San Benito CISD.

Students design and build electric cars from kits that will soon be raced during the first ever UTRGV GreenPower USA Electric Car Competition in April.

Only 30 schools will have the opportunity to vie in the competition that involves a public showcase and race.

According to San Benito High School math teacher and program director Mary Maney, San Benito currently has two teams including the only all-female team in the Valley.

“It’s a wonderful program that has a lot of potential,” Maney said.

The work in the program goes beyond building the car.

In addition to engineering and electrical work, students also are learning about marketing, presentation and design.

“There are a lot of things we can do with this car and it is getting students interested in different career fields,” Maney said.

Students are expected to create a presentation and explain the process and program.

Video presentations and brochures create the need for a marketing team within the initiative.

“It’s not just a school project,” Maney said. “It’s part of SkillsUSA and it can be used for the engineering science fair. There are a lot of things we can do with this car.”

Maney said the district doesn’t necessarily have a STEM program, but the initiative is reinforcing their classroom lessons and allowing them to think outside the box.

“It really is a neat concept,” Maney said. “Kids who never really thought about vehicles, we’re opening up their eyes and getting the community involved.”

The majority of students’ work is done on the weekends where students are test driving their electric cars outside of Bobby Morrow Stadium.

During the race, electric cars will be required to drive a 90-minute race on one set of batteries.

Maney said there was a lot of information that they didn’t know during the first year of the program that they will be using in the future.

“We’ll continue to evolve as we’re going on,” Maney said. “It will soon become an institute and not just a program.”

Maney said the next goal is to open up the program to include elementary students.

What is the GreenPower USA initiative?

The goal of the initiative is to advance education in the subjects of sustainable engineering and technology to young people. GreenPower runs engineering challenges for schools based around designing and building a single seat electric powered race car.