Students build electric car and compete in race

By Lorrie Ham Laker Correspondent

Several Westonka fourth, fifth and sixth graders participated in the 16th Electric Car Races held in Becker, Minn., on Saturday, May 19.

The car races are sponsored by a volunteer group of engineers who form the group B*E*S*T* – Bridging Engineers Science & Teaching.

Led by Hilltop Primary’s Gifted and Talented Education Services (GATES) teacher Therese Frenette, the students began meeting last fall on most Wednesday afternoons after school for the Electric Car Engineering Class through Community Ed. They first learned about the car systems by building a small 6" car from materials they had found along with batteries and motors supplied by their teacher.

Collaboration, communication, and planning were stressed from the beginning of class. Beginning in January, plans for the large car were underway. The students were to round up the materials, B*E*S*T* provided the motor and the batteries, and the tools were made available through a grant from the Westonka Foundation.

The students worked all year on learning about how many systems interrelate to allow a car to move under mechanical and electrical power. While volunteer engineers were consulted for the technical aspects of the drive system, the students learned what worked and what didn’t work through trial and error. Problem solving, cooperation, and asking for ideas and assistance were all part of the learning process.

Families were very supportive in the spring with time, energy, and efforts. When the students’ persistence waned, parents buoyed them up and really gave the team the push to the completion mark, said Frenette.

With support from families and local businesses, the students completed the car shortly before the first race began. Special thanks go out to Jack Born, Lance Ness, Doug Dahm, and R&S Collision for their invaluable assistance when it was most needed.

On race day Joe Woychick, with support from Andrew Wolf and Logan Jones, spoke to the crowd about the design of the car and of what they had learned during its creation. Aaron Banick served on the race day Merit Award committee. The Westonka Surfing Penguins earned an "Outstanding Use of Multiple Materials Award." Adam Born drove in the drag race with a time of 22.1 sec., not fast enough to place, but the crew got the car running just in time to compete. Andrew Wolf drove in the slalom race with a time of 50.3 sec., finishing in fifth place. All of the team members present earned their license to drive the electric car and drove in the endurance race. The team completed 39 laps. While the range was from 56 laps to 2 laps, with 2 cars unable to compete, the field of 10 cars provided the team members ideas for next year’s car.

Students who participated in this Westonka Community Education Class were: Adam Born, Henry Ness, Jack Dahm, Aaron Banick, Nick Ramacier, Michael Andreyeshchev, Andrew Wolf, Logan Jones and Joe Woychick.

Pictures of all of the cars can be seen at