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Students engineer small electric cars
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Liberty County High School sophomore Eduardo Renta-Colon helps Julian Sutphin, sophomore, solder wire, as math teacher Angelia Carter watches. - photo by Photo by Tiffany King

Cloudy days outside didn’t stop Liberty County High School students from building mini solar-powered cars as part of the school’s two-day STEAM Camp.

Students attended LCHS’s Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math Camp Monday and Tuesday to learn how to build solar powered and battery-powered cars.

Coastal Electric Cooperative co-sponsored the camp and provided the project kits.
Camp teachers Brenda Harris, who teaches environmental science and anatomy, and Angelia Carter, who teaches mathematical decision-making, talked about the students experimenting with different size parts and how one car crashed into a metal door frame, causing with the motor and parts to fly everywhere.

Monday, students built the cars based on the template.

“They’ve researched to determine what makes the car go faster, what makes it go slower, and so we have different groups taking different theories, using different size gears, different size wheels,” Harris said. “A lot of it is to teach critical thinking skills, problem solving because this is what they’re going to get in the real world.”
Tuesday morning, students built cars according to their own design ideas.

Bethany Akridge, Coastal Electric community coordinator, visited the camp to see how the students were doing.
“We’ve donated kits to other schools and we wanted to help out and be a part,” Akridge said. “It’s amazing what these kids can do. Other students make modifications to instructions and become engineers themselves. It draws that out of them. They present data, facts and talk like engineers. We want to do more things like this in the area.”

The project kit includes balsa wood sheets, alligator clips, wheels, solar panel, motors and axles.
Students used soldering irons, needle-nose pliers, sandpaper, glue guns and other tools to put their cars together.
Harris brought in other items, such as a toy bulldozer and large, colorful wheels for students to incorporate into their designs.
The cars raced outside Monday with the solar panels connected, but cloudy conditions outside Tuesday prevented another outdoor race. Instead, the students made the cars battery-powered and raced them in the halls.

Terry Cook, information technology manager for Coastal Electric and James Platt, IT technician, also came to the school to see the projects. They created a race track in the halls with a wire that is hooked onto the bottom of the car to keep it straight.
“We wanted to see how they were thinking outside the box,” Cook said, “see how they developed the car any way they wanted and what kind of creativity they have with using generic instructions as a basis.”

Junior Julie Hand and sophomore Azilyiah Dean’s car went the fastest. While experimenting with the design, Hand took the ends off a bulldozer wheel, glued them together and created tire treads with a glue gun. When that didn’t work in their design they tried something else.
Freshman Keegan Hand worked on improving the group’s car from the previous day so it could go faster.
Sophomore Julian Sutphin’s car resembled a small pickup and Sophomore Eduardo Renta-Colon built a car with huge colorful wheels.
Julie Hand said she’s more into the arts than engineering and math. At the urging of her mother, she attended the camp and enjoyed it. She said she likes putting things together and would consider coming back next summer.

For her brother, Keegan Hand it’s something he wants to do more of in the future.
“I think it’s pretty fun,” Keegan Hand said. “It lets us explore. I want to be a robotic engineer in the future.”
Dean also said it was fun and went better than she expected.
Sutphin said his mother wanted him try something new and he liked it.

Renta-Colon also enjoyed his experience and thinks engineering could be a possible future career.
At the end of the day students were allowed to take their cars home and continue to work on them.

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