LCTC returns to Electrathon

Published 11:17 am Thursday, April 18, 2019

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

LeCroy Career Technical Center STEM Academy students competed in this year’s Electrathon car race.

It had been a few years since Chilton County Schools had a team compete in the event.

Teacher Jason Sosa said students took two electric battery powered cars to the competition.

Each of the cars had been used for projects by students in previous years, but students made upgrades to get them ready for race day.

Sosa said one of the cars had previously been a green–powered car and had to be converted to the requirements of the Electrathon race.

Modifications are focused on increasing speed while ensuring safety of the driver. Both cars reached speeds greater than 30 mph during the race.

Electrathon is held at the Barbers Motorsports Speedway used by IndyCar racers, Sosa said.

Students Jon Nelson, Logan Popwell and Brady McCormick were a part of the team working on an open-cockpit style.

Although the team finished the race, the team did not finish high enough to place.

Nelson said he helped get the car ready for competition and drove the vehicle for a portion of the race.

“We drove around the parking lot some (at LCTC) to get used to the steering of it because it is a bit stiff on the turns,” Nelson said.

He said he enjoyed “being able to work on the car because it’s a break from normal school work.”

“Driving the car was obviously a lot of fun,” Nelson said.

Nelson got the car up to 31 miles per hour at one point.

“We changed out the wheels and did some little things to it,” Popwell said. “We picked out the wheels that probably had the best grip on the track and made sure it had a lot of spokes to hold it up.”

The wheels on this vehicle resemble bicycle wheels. McCormick said they made sure the four wheels had an equal amount of pressure on the spokes, so that a spoke did not break during the race.

“We put weights in, so we would meet the weight requirement for the race,” McCormick said. “Each driver had to be 180 pounds, and since we didn’t have that we had to put weights in the car to make up for it.”

McCormick said he enjoyed the opportunity to work on a new hands-on project. He said the project was a “good preparation for college, if we want to continue this.”

During the race, he said the car could go “pretty fast” down the hills and he had to pay attention not to go too fast on the curves.

Popwell said it was also important “to conserve the battery to make it through the whole race.”

The course is a little more than two miles, and teams are required to drive for an hour to complete the race.

Student Jordan Johnson was a part of the team working on an enclosed-cockpit design. He was also the team’s driver.

“They showed off their cars when I was touring (LeCroy) as a freshman,” Johnson said.

He said listening to the students talk about the cars and racing got him interested in doing Electrathon one day.

“It was an adrenaline rush,” Johnson said. “It was the most fun thing I have done in my life.”

During the race, he was able to get the car up to 52 miles per hour.

Johnson’s vehicle had a tire blow in the first lap. Sosa said the wheel may have been damaged when the wheel hit a large pothole in the school parking lot but is not totally sure if that is what caused the wheel to fail. However, after a new wheel was put on, Johnson went on to do six laps in 20 minutes before having to drop out of the race.

He said it was a good time working with his team at the event. Each race driver is required to wear a helmet, five-point harness and other safety gear.

Forty cars competed in the race.

The Electrathon project was an extracurricular activity that the LeCroy students with the most STEM classes participated in. Powell said he enjoyed “working on the car, just making it better and better and not just doing sit-down schoolwork.”
Sosa said it was mostly students who are taking robotics applications and engineering design that were on the teams.

“Going forward, we want to continue year to year to make improvements,” Sosa said. “Plans for next year are to change out the motor to a more efficient motor and the brakes.”

Switching to hydraulic disc brakes is a plan for next year.