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Electric vehicle competition revs into gear

Engineers and teachers are praising an electric vehicle initiative they say is sparking renewed interest in science, maths and engineering in Waikato secondary schools.

EVolocity Waikato is a competition where students design, build and race their own electric kart or bike with assistance from teachers, tertiary tutors and mentors from engineering businesses.

About 150 students from 16 schools are this month preparing to thrash it out on the track in EVolocity Waikato Finals on Saturday September 29, when they will race their vehicles to see which schools’ electric vehicles will go on to compete in the national finals in Christchurch on November 24.

The electric vehicle competition has attracted more interest than ever, including at least 30 female competitors, which co-ordinator Levinia Paku says is encouraging.

As well as speed, school electric vehicles will be judged on economy, rolling resistance and motor control. Other prizes will be awarded for innovation and sustainability, with extra points for body design, bling, creatively dressed teams and community awareness.

WECA manager Mary Jensen said EVolocity has been an excellent way to spark interest in important secondary school subjects and mechanical and electrical engineering.

“EVolocity puts students in a workshop setting and sees them practising the subjects they are learning in the classroom in a hands-on way. For most students this will also be their first taste of engineering and hopefully will inspire the best students to pursue careers in this lucrative sector,” Mary said.

WECA is co-ordinating EVolocity in the region and its engineering company members, along with Wintec and the University of Waikato, are supporting the initiative.

“We’re facing a shortage of skilled engineers as a region and as a nation so our members and tertiary providers are very motivated to equip and inspire the next generation of engineers. We see EVolocity as complementary to the school curriculum as it gives students that extra taste of what engineering looks like in real world.”

St Johns’ College head of technology Steve Andrew said 10 Year 13 students taking part in EVolocity at his school has embraced the challenge, renewing their vigour for technology, maths and science subjects.

“They’re using core subjects like science and physics in the workshop and they’re so engrossed. It’s also probably the first time they have been exposed to mechanical and electrical engineering, so that’s a big part of it too,” Steve said.

Team work among students and teachers had been another positive spinoff.

“Our technology teachers are working together and students are working together to solve problems for a common purpose. The competition element of it has really motivated them. The response from everyone has been great,” Steve said.

EVolocity was founded in Christchurch in 2014 and Executive Director Rob McEwen says Waikato, with hundreds of engineering businesses, is a good fit for their mission to establish EVolocity throughout New Zealand.

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