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Mentoring a Greenpower Race Team: Episode 4 – Implementation Options

Siemens Valued Contributor Siemens Valued Contributor
Siemens Valued Contributor

If you are getting ready to discuss implementation options with a teacher, this will probably be the most valuable post. If you are a teacher considering Greenpower, same thing. This post will answer the most common questions from schools interested in implementing Greenpower.


When I saw with my teachers, I presented a very similar set of options, and now that I’ve been through a complete race season, I’ll add what worked and what didn’t. Hopefully this will save you some hard ache.


What is Greenpower?

A STEM-based program to help entice students K-12 to get involved with math, science, and engineering realated fields of study. Kids get to build and race a go-cart sized electric car. Cars can come in kit form or be hand crafted. The program was developed in the UK in 1999 and currently has around 700 of schools participating. It as has been tremendously successful in getting kids involved in engineering and related fields and is now just getting started in the US.


How many schools in the US participate?

Growing rapidly with several schools in and around northern Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, and UT building cars. With any new program, growing takes time, but interest is very high. Companies are starting to take notice and corporate sponsorships is becoming more available.


How many races and where?

Again, this is new but races tend to be in the fall and spring in Northern Alabama. There was a recent race in Salt Lake, UT.


How should I implement Greenpower at my school?

After school project is the easiest and is what I did for my 2 schools. Most other schools tend to do the same as this gives you flexibility in day/time and doesn’t require curriculum content, planned activities, school board approvals and the like. The downside is finding a conflict-free time, transportation, etc.


Where should a Greenpower car be stored and built?

You will need a dedicated room, but trust me, nothing fancy is needed. We built a first place winner in a portable building, with only simple hand tools. My middle school car was built in the classroom (see the attached image), again with very simple tools. A hand drill was the most expensive and complicated tool we used. Secure access is going to be very important—once kids see the car, they will want to start messing with things. Only allow your race team to have access to the car (and tools).


How mechanically inclined does the teacher need to be?

I highly recommend that a reasonably skilled, mechanically and electrically inclined adult be involved for the first year. If you can change the oil in your car, you are probably good enough to mentor this project. Parents can help and mentor, but need to remember that this is a project for the students by the students. The real issue with any “first time” activity is no one will know what to do—me included. It will be a challenge letting the students learn as they go—especially if your first race is less than 6 months away.


How many students should be on the team?

8-12 students is ideal, but expect some to naturally drop out and as there will be time conflicts. I found it hard to turn a budding mind away and let some 22 students in (for each team). This was very tough for me to manage, teach, mentor, etc.


What will Greenpower cost?

  1. The F24 kit car (for middle school and high school) is approx. $5500, and the Goblin kit car (for elementary schools) is approx. $3300. My middle school received a grant from a local company, so exercise your options in finding grant money.
  2. The kit car WILL require additional parts to make it race ready. Protective sides can run from $10 to $200, a basic Bodies can range from $100 to $1000’s, and safety equipment (helmets, gloves, driver suit) will run around $100 per driver (rules require at least 3 drivers). We spent about $70 on protective body parts, and less that $100 on the body.
  3. If you choose to build a custom car, plan on spending $1000’s and have very long build times—like years. Also check for races that allow custom cars to compete with kit cars.
  4. The kit comes with *some* tools, but you will need to buy extra stuff. I’ll include a separate tool and supply list in a future post, but each of my schools spent round $1000 for basic necessities (wire crimpers, extra wire, glue, tape measures, oil, helmets, etc.
  5. Entrance fees. I’ve yet to see a fee be charged (even for parking)


Race transportation

We borrowed a trailer and pick-up truck to haul the cars and tools to the races, but we were close to the tracks. If you have to travel far, bank on added costs. Make sure you have permission, insurance and all that jazz covered of you are going to haul kids around. I required an approval text from a parent if I were transporting their precious cargo.


What engineering practices will kids learn?

I wish you could hear what my students, leaned...they would say stuff like design concepts, mechanical engineering, basic electricity, basic aerodynamics, basic energy conservation, basic manufacturing techniques, teamwork, tool basics, project management, fund raising, marketing, public relations, soft skills, and hanging out with a very cool CoachK—seriously I became a surrogate dad for many.


What is assembled vs. hand crafted?

The kit car will be assembled by the students with minimal hand crafted parts, the body is totally hand crafted—but keep in mind, I’ve seen cars wrapped in duct tape and look pretty good. A custom car (which I don’t recommend for your fist year) is completely hand crafted.


What materials can the car body be made from?

See the official rules but teams have used, duct tape $, plastic wrapping $, cardboard $, cloth $, wood $, fiberglass $$, carbon fiber $$$$$$$$.


How long does it take to build a car?

A knowledgeable students can assemble the car in 40 hours, students not familiar with mechanics can assemble the car in 60 hours, a very skilled parent can build the car in a weekend, a custom car can take 2 years to design and build. In my experience, my high-school team had the car built in 3 weeks, and spend 2 months on the body (researching, debating, building, etc.). My middle school took around 12 weeks to get a drivable car.


Are instructions available?

Build sheets, wiring diagrams are included, and Siemens has some on-line videos of the process. The mechanical sheets are relatively easy to follow, the electrical is kind of a schematic (not a wiring diagram) and is not easy to follow. Expect to struggle with electrical.


How many students are needed for each area?

Assembling the car (I recommend all should participate, but in the end around 6 students did most of the work). Body took around 4 students, many of the same assemblers. Drivers should be made up of at least 5 students, 3 are required by the rules, and you should have some backups. We had a dedicated pit team assigned to keeping the car running, and deciding what to fix/ignore during races. Marketing we suffered, no one really stepped up and create Facebook pages, YouTube channels, fundraised, etc. Each team had a project manager, but again, new teams will need some strong guidance—that’s where you come in. There can be more roles such as logistics, but I think you get the distribution makeup.


How should I invite students to join?

We created an advertising flyer and posted them around school. The teachers also made announcements during engineering classes, and even hand-picked some “stars”. We failed miserably and not expanding our reach—we should have recruited from the business side—I’m sure there would have been a savvy marketing person. It was my experience that getting kids interested is easy, choosing the best ones is tough


How to choose a team

I created an official application (I’ll post this in a future post), and the teachers and I reviewed each. We had such strong candidates; we “hired” all 23. In retrospect, I would be stricter in my grading—some students were there only because of parent pressure and didn’t offer much to the team. After we had the team selected, we held a parent meeting to introduce the program and set expectations.


What is the general time line to meet race event

I experienced the following: it took 8 weeks to get the car after the order was placed, 4 months to build an F24, 1 month to test, refine, train drivers, and practice pitting. Basically this was a full semester project; however, we didn’t order the car until after the school year started, so this project spanned the entire year. Could you build a race ready car in say 1 month, yes, but some serious discipline and weekends will be needed.


I realize this is a long post and probably scarring you to death, but it’s not as bad as it looks. I’ve done a lot of the legwork here and hopedully covered all the bases. If there are any unanswered questions,chime in and I’ll be happy to help you out.


See you next time




Kris Kasprzak