Great Bend High School’s Vocational Technology Club races electric cars throughout the school year all over the state of Kansas.
“This program is great for the kids,” instructor Travis Straub said. “It teaches them about how electricity works, turning wrenches on vehicles that can be applied to their own vehicle at some point, but most important it teaches them teamwork and the camaraderie that it provides is great for the kids. They get to build relationships that can last way after they get out of school.”
The vehicles are either made by the clubs from scratch or from kits. They run off two 12 volt car batteries and a controller. Most of these cars use bicycle braking systems and cables along with bike rims and tires.
The Great Bend team has two cars, No. 388 and No. 488. It took club members three years to build the 388 car from a kit and make it race-ready. No. 488 was purchased from another school.
“The cars are very light weight and use simple parts. This is what allows the vehicles to travel as fast as they do for as long as they do in a race. The right balance of weight and power is important to make the car reach the finish line along with the driver knowing his limits,” Straub said.
The vehicles race in what is called an ElectroRally. This rally is a type of electric marathon in which the winner is determined by how far a driver can travel in a certain time with a given amount of battery power. “We drive these vehicles until the batteries die,” Straub said. “The drivers really need to know when they can get on the throttle and know when to cut back and save power in order to finish the race with as many laps they can get in within an hour.”
The vehicles also have very good safety measures in place. The students must be 16 years old to drive the vehicle, and a helmet along with a five-point safety harness must be worn at all times.
“When it comes to driving these vehicles, safety for the student is our primary goal. This is why we have strict guidelines we have to follow in regards to the safety equipment in the vehicles.” Straub said.
The Vocational Technology Club has been around for 12 years and since 2011 they have been driving the 388 car. The 488 was added in the last couple of years.
“The 488 car is a great car. We have been taking old parts off of it and redesigning it to fit our needs on the track. This usually takes a few seasons to iron out the problems like throwing the chain, but we think we got it done,” Straub said.
This past school year both vehicles did well, with top 10 finishes in a two races at Hays and taking the third place finish in the spring race in Scott City with both cars.
“As the race season comes to a close this year, overall we did pretty good. We will pick it back up in the fall and hope to compete another year,” Straub said.
Any students who will be in high school in 2017-2018 and is interested in the club can contract Straub at the school, 620-793-1521.