Contributed by Dawn Hjelseth
In 2016, green|spaces hosted their 2nd Annual Green School Summit. Over 100 teachers, facility and administration were present for the keynote speech from Huntsville Public Schools. The majority of their speech was related to efficient operations including energy improvements in existing schools and new school developments. They concluded their presentation with the GreenpowerUSA program. They showcased how the cars provided an opportunity for unique hands-on building, team building and problem solving skills. One of our funding partners was in the room and was interested to see if the program could be replicated here.
After the event, green|spaces spoke with a few schools that had construction or engineering departments and identified five schools who were interested in participating. We developed a grant application to the Lyndhurst Foundation to provide funding for the kits, trips to Huntsville and to put on a race here in Chattanooga. At the same time, two other schools who were at the Green Schools Summit approached Greater Chattanooga Robotics for funding of their cars. In total, two elementary and five middle/high schools were selected to participate in our pilot year.
We sent a staff member to the adviser training in Huntsville in the Summer of 2017. He returned with the knowledge to teach the advisers how to build their cars and hosted two Saturday training sessions. The kits arrived in September 2017 and students started to work on them immediately. We took a trip to Huntsville for the students to watch a race in October 2017 allowing them to see a race in action and ask questions to the other teams.
As this was our first time hosting a race in Chattanooga, we wanted to ensure it was as safe and fun experience. We developed a close relationship with the SCCA chapter in Chattanooga who helped us to identify course locations, assisted advisers when they were having challenges and designed our final course layout, which was held at Chattanooga State on March 28th.
We invited two teams from Huntsville to participate in our race, keeping it small but challenging for the students. The team from Huntsville won the elementary race with Dalewood Middle winning our F-24 race. The SCCA was so supportive at the race, providing cones, tech inspections, flagging and timing. We could not have done our race without them. Here is a link to our race video: https://youtu.be/TviL3q1Dbk4
The word quickly spread about the success of the program. Schools were contacting us wondering how they could get a car. We developed a larger proposal to the Lyndhurst Foundation for an additional 10 cars but were instructed to find matching support from the local community. By approaching some of our partners including TVA, EPB and local businesses, we were able to raise funding for an additional 14 cars. Four teams also joined in from private schools by providing their own funding for their cars.
Our next race is planned for May 10 & 11 at Chattanooga State. As we have grown so quickly, we are still limiting the number of outside teams to participate in our program. We hope to be able to find a larger location to host the event for the 2019/2020 school year.