Students head to Alabama to race electric cars

SAN BENITO — Call them the San Benito Green Hounds.

Two low, red and green electric cars are decorated with decals of a picture of a green greyhound.

Student members of the San Benito High School GreenPower USA Electric Car team are heading to Alabama to take part in the Toyota-Jaguar Classic Electric Car Competition.

The electric car program began at San Benito High School two years ago to teach students about green power initiatives using mechanics and technology.

San Benito High School teacher Mary Maney said in addition to building and racing the cars, students are also responsible for creating a presentation.

“It’s all a learning experience for the kids to figure out what works for them and what doesn’t work for them and what they need to change,” Maney said.

The program is fairly new in the Valley with only a handful of districts taking part in the initiative, including San Benito.

Due to this, students have not yet competed in any official races.

This will be the first.

“Since school started this is what we’ve been looking forward to,” junior Aarron Garza said. “I know our car is going to do good and it’s going to perform well.”

San Benito currently has two teams, one of which is the only all-female team in the Valley.

Students have been building their electric cars from kits shipped in from England under the guide of automotive teacher Meliton Hinojosa.

The goal is to eventually build the cars from scratch, which Hinojosa said will allow the students to drive faster.

Maney expects the program will be prepared to begin building cars from scratch in the next two years.

“We’re not there yet, but that’s ultimately where we need to go,” Maney said.

In the meantime, the students are learning the ins and outs of electric cars.

Senior Amber Cano, who wants to one day be a mechanic in the Navy, said the cars aren’t done until Hinojosa has given his approval.

“If you don’t listen to directions, things aren’t going to work out right and you’re going to waste money and waste time and waste material and then you end up without a car,” Cano said.

Twenty San Benito students will leave for Alabama today and will compete over the weekend.

They will be accompanied by the Santa Rosa team made up of 12 students.

GreenPower USA goals

• To change views about engineering, presenting it as a fascinating, relevant and dynamic career choice for any person

• To link education, industry and community through inspirational engineering projects

• To demonstrate the importance of engineering and associated STEM subjects to solve the problems faced by societies today in areas of sustainability

• To promote social inclusion through engaging with vulnerable and economically disadvantaged young people