Eugene (KMTR) - While drivers in Oregon are being reminded to keep their vehicles ready for winter driving, some local high school students are preparing dozens of cars for racing this spring and summer.
Several high schools in Lane County spend this time of year teaching metal shop students how to build electric cars from the ground up.
Willamette High School metal shop teacher Mike Hodgert has been teaching students to build electric cars for about 17 years now, and his school has won the Northwest Electrathon Championship 12 of the last 13 years.
This year, juniors and seniors at Willamette will build 14 new battery-powered cars and refurbish three cars from last year.
Junior Tia Drummond says, “I just got really excited when I heard that we could drive them and be able to race them against our teacher and other kids from other schools. So far I’ve learned how to use a lot of the machines in here, and the process of the cars being made.”
The students learn how to weld, wire, and use different pieces of equipment and—maybe most importantly—they learn to work together and problem-solve.
Instructor, Mike Hodgert says, “When we first started this program, we talked to a lot of engineers and almost every person said, ‘Don't worry about teaching them math and engineering skills; teach them how to think, problem-solve and do things with their hands.’ And if you teach them to work as a team, they'll be hirable in any field.”
The students will compete against other schools in their first Electrathon race in March and will wrap up the racing season at the Eugene Celebration in September.The Eugene Water and Electric Board provides the school with $12,000 a year for parts and supplies, so there is no cost to the students who participate.