Kansas Electrorally Series
The weather for an Electrorally race held in Scott City can be a bit of a gamble. In years past, there was talk of a “curse” because of the near certainty of less than ideal conditions (read: cold, rainy, miserable). Although it didn't rain, the cold and wind prevailed at this year’s Sunflower Electrorally race, held April 26th at the Scott City Municipal Airport.
Fourteen teams from Kansas and Nebraska came to race in spite of the cold to compete in the Solar, Standard and Open classes. The teams design, build and race their own cars, using several disciplines to construct the perfect racing machine. With few guidelines, students are afforded much flexibility when it comes to the design of their vehicles—as long as they stay within their budget. Teams are only allowed to spend $2,000 on their car, which means parts are often “harvested” from past vehicles, or they are fabricated from materials already on hand.
Race days are always exciting. They are the culmination of all of the hard work. Generally, the routine is the same: students and sponsors check in, turn in waivers, drivers are weighed in (they have to weigh 180 pounds or make up the difference with ballast), each team is required to pass a written exam on safety and vehicles must pass inspection—all before a single car hits the track. From there, the cars draw for pole position, last minute checks are done, and the race begins. Each car has a designated “counter” to record the number of laps their car successfully completes in one hour. This lap count is what determines the winner.
Students tweak their designs and their strategy from race to race. Small adjustments can make the difference between a first place finish and not finishing at all. Students learn from trial and error what works and what doesn’t. This process is a powerful teaching tool in real-world applications of math, art and physics. Students learn teamwork as well. Most develop ways to communicate with each other during a race, be it headsets or simple hand gestures.
Wheatland provides volunteers to help set up and tear down the track, register teams, grill and serve hot dogs and hamburgers, take photos, run errands or do whatever is needed to make the race a success. Wheatland is fortunate to be able to use the Spencer Flight Center to host the event, especially when the weather is not on our side.
For more information about the electric car program in Kansas, visit www.kansaselectrorally.org. Schools interested in starting an electric car program should contact Shawn Powelson, manager of member services and corporate communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org.