Students build, race electric car at Barber Motor Speedway

Checkered flag: An electric car built by students at the LeCroy Career Tech Center STEM Academy races during a competition at Barber Motor Speedway on April 4. (Contributed photos)

Checkered flag: An electric car built by students at the LeCroy Career Tech Center STEM Academy races during a competition at Barber Motor Speedway on April 4. (Contributed photos)

By Leisl Lemire | Special to the Advertiser

High school students do not often have the opportunity to race at Barber Motor Speedway.

LeCroy Career Tech Center STEM Academy students did just that—in a car they built themselves.

Competing for the first time in the competition on April 4, a team of local students managed a first-place finish in one of the races, STEM engineering teacher Jay LeCroy said.

The project began when girls who were engaged in a Math and Science Fair project began to design a car last fall that would run on electricity in time for the Maplesville Christmas parade in December 2015.

Race car: Jack Bragg drove the car that raced in the competition.

Race car: Jack Bragg drove the car that raced in the competition.

Shanda Manasco, a sophomore at Jemison High School, helped build the car and credits Jason Sosa, STEM teacher, for all of his instruction.

“It was great to be a part of such an amazing project, and even thought I didn’t get to be a driver, it was still great to be a part of the process,” Manasco said.

Amy Garcia, a senior from Jemison, was one of the drivers and said the students were encouraged by positive comments from friends.

“A lot of hard work was involved, but it was fun and it had a great outcome at the fair,” Garcia said.

Male students also joined in the project as they began to prepare for the racing competitions.

As time went on, it became evident that more funding was necessary to fully develop the potential for truly competitive racing cars.

New experience: Local students competed in the race for the first time.

New experience: Local students competed in the race for the first time.

Chilton County Superintendent of Education Tommy Glasscock went to work on their behalf and quickly raised money from local business owners.

The students went on to enter two cars in the race, which had 47 cars competing from schools all over Alabama and the Southeast.

There were two races, and one of the teams from Chilton County won the first race.

There was a break to allow for batteries to recharge, and that same team, with Jack Bragg driving, went on to a second-place finish in the final race behind Hewitt-Trussville High School.

“It was a good experience,” Jemison sophomore Andre’ Nix said. “I got to hang out with friends and learn from other kids who were from other schools also.”

“It was a great experience to build a car and drive it, as well as meet people from around the state and country who have been racing for a long time,” Chilton County High Senior Dustin Latham said.

Fast finishers: The local team’s car finished first in one race and second in another race.

Fast finishers: The local team’s car finished first in one race and second in another race.

The activity combines math and science skills as well as engineering to develop cars that will balance speed with endurance. Students have to calculate battery usage along with gear ratios and voltage output.

There are hills to be considered as it is not simply a level racecourse. A driver with just the right weight and height has to be chosen who can actually fit inside the car but who also has the driving skills necessary as well.

LeCroy mentioned that it was Sosa, teacher in the STEM program at LeCroy Career Technical Center, who came in during spring break, along with some other students including Bragg, to continue working on the cars in preparation for the forthcoming race.

“Because of local businesses donating to this project, our students were allowed to compete and showcase their talent on a level playing field against students from larger schools and better funded programs,” LeCroy said.

Both Sosa and LeCroy are looking forward to next year’s event because they hope to be able to add communication equipment to the mix so that there can be better communication between the drivers and the pit crew.

Local students could compete at an event in Huntsville on April 23. Sosa and LeCroy are trying to determine if this event is a feasible option.

Any businesses interested in donating could have their logos added to the cars just like is seen in stock car racing.

LeCroy can be reached at LCTC at (205) 280-2920.

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