By Marti Webb Slay
For The Tribune
The students at the Engineering Academy at Hewitt-Trussville High School are establishing a legacy that future students will have to live up to.
In two years of the Electrathon electric car race at Barber Motorsports Park, the Hewitt-Trussville team has entered three cars, placed first, second and third, and established a reputation for running some of the most reliable cars in the competition.
Electrathon Alabama — sponsored by Alabama Power, Skilled Knowledgeable Youth, Zoom Motorsports and Barber Motorsports Park — gives high school students an opportunity to build electric cars and then race them in two one-hour races. The completed laps from both races are totaled, and the team with the most laps wins.
Hewitt-Trussville was one of four cars to compete last year, taking first place. This year, the team entered two cars — a boys’ car, which was last year’s car improved; and a girls’ car, which was purchased with the help of local corporate sponsors.
“We wanted to get the girls involved,” said Chris Bond, an engineering teacher at Hewitt-Trussville. “We knew females in the industry are an untapped resource. We thought they would be extremely competitive, and they were.”
The two HTHS teams tied in the number of laps they completed this year, with the boys taking the second place trophy on a tiebreaker, giving the girls third place. The girls’ car broke a chain near the end of the first race, which cost them an estimated two to three laps. The chain was repaired, and the car was ready to run the second hour. The boys’ car was one of only two cars in the race that didn’t break down during either race.
“Our car last year broke down once or twice,” Bond said. “We learned from our mistakes
. It’s part of the engineering design process.”
That process is a circular process that includes identifying a problem, developing possible solutions, testing, and identifying the new problems.
“We learned there are some critical components to have a reliable car, and we paid attention to those details,” Bond said.
The approach was successful. While other teams broke down, many in the first lap and many more than once during the two races, the HTHS teams experienced only one breakdown in four combined races.
A car from a team in Pensacola, Fla., took first place. The HTHS team is already making plans to improve their cars for next spring’s race.
Bond teaches engineering with Jason Dooley, and both teachers put in extra time helping the students build the cars and fine-tune them for performance.
“We are so proud of the students on this team,” Bond said. “Their dedication and desire to be successful was unsurpassed. They were here for many hours after school on a volunteer effort. It’s impressive.”