Coastal Electric Cooperative (EC) in Midway, GA understands that commitment to community involves creating a bright future for the next generation of member owner and co-op employees. That’s why they are committed to cultivating science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs at local schools.
In fact, Coastal EC has been sponsoring an electric vehicle (EV) engineering STEM research project at Richmond Hill High School for the past two years that fosters critical thinking, problem-solving and hands-on learning.
Thanks to a grant through Georgia Southern University that established the foundations of the STEM program, Richmond Hill High School was able to get the program off the ground, but not without help from Coastal EC.
In 2015, Jenn McIrvin, owner of local auto body shop, Personal Touch Collison, and a parent to children at Richmond Hill, donated an old gasoline-powered go-kart to the high school. Emma Fettes, the honors and general chemistry and STEM scientific research teacher at Richmond Hill High School, saw the dune buggy as a potential base that could be stripped and re-engineered into an electric vehicle and embraced the opportunity as a perfect project for her class.
With help from Alan Shedd, the energy solutions director at Touchstone Energy, the students determined the correct motor size required to convert the gas-powered dune buggy into a functioning electric go kart. Coastal EC then donated the electric motor as well as the solar panel, which eventually supported the vehicle’s battery recharging, after the students had worked to understand the concepts behind solar power. As interest in EV increased, Coastal EC purchased EV kits for Richmond Hill High School, and has since done the same for the First Presbyterian Christian Academy.
The entire project was a collaborative effort spanning several semesters that engaged students in mechanical and electrical tasks to build and understand the concepts behind working with EVs. Alan Shedd even became a mentor to the students throughout the assignment, often providing research support and hands-on help. In his honor, the students affectionately named their storage shed “The Shedd.”
By the project’s 4th semester, students dedicated their time after school and even on weekends. Their research and group work ultimately helped bolster their critical thinking skills as they learned how to ask and answer their own questions and confidently apply them in the real world. Fettes, who taught the STEM research project at Richmond Hill, proudly noted, “The students were able to take the project, set a goal and learn the skills they needed to answer their own questions. It was true research and they were able to become the expert.”
The project culminated in an EV Rally, sponsored by Coastal EC, on May 5, 2018 where current and former students from each school put their creations to the test in a friendly competition.
Check out this video of their EV Rally here and see more of how Coastal EMC’s support and their students’ engagement exemplify the cooperative difference!