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May 15, 2013

Electric car program on roll in Rockport

Student car program on a roll in Rockport

Tooling regularly around the Rockport High School track these days are two unusual looking, low-slung vehicles going no faster than 30 to 40 miles per hour, if that.

They are odorless and silent, except for the familiar whirring sound of bicycle wheels.

Every so often, a group looking on intently from the sidelines rushes at one or the other vehicle to make a small adjustment, or take the vehicle right back to their nearby classroom for more urgent repairs.

This is the Rockport High School Electrathon team. The students work with these electric vehicles that run on car batteries, constantly upgrading and overhauling them; tweaking and making adjustments and repairs to improve their performance.

According to the Electrathon America website, the events they prepare the vehicles for are a type of “electric marathon,” in which “the winner is determined by how far you go in a certain time with a given amount of battery power.”

The team, funded by the Educational Foundation for Rockport, is also part of a class at the school — technology and design, taught by Dave Young — who is new this year to the school and also serves as the team’s advisor.

Each vehicle — one considered “classic,” the other newer and considered “composite” — runs on two car batteries. In regional and national competitions, these vehicles race for one hour to test how far and how efficiently they can travel in that hour.

“If your car is lighter and more efficient, the better,” team member and RHS junior Billy Chalmers explained

The team spends time doing research on how to make their cars as energy efficient as they can be.

Some team members are interested in engineering study and careers.

Senior Ben Cook wants to also eventually get involved with race car driving, and junior Josie Garfield is thinking about which branch of engineering she’d like to pursue in college; right now, she’s interested in civil engineering. Teammates work well together, kidding around and teasing each other, but they’re also serious about their vehicles.

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