Contributed by Javier Garcia, STEMS Alumni Association
The Greenpower USA idea in Texas began in 2016 when a supervisor at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) asked soneone to take on a new project that would involve the Gear Up program from the Region One Education Service Center. We thought GreenpowerUSA would be a great opportunity for students to experience something beyond robotics and involve excitement that relates to motorsports. UTRGV sent personnel for training in Huntsville, AL and I went to races in Utah and Huntsville a few times to gain knowledge about GPUSA.
A year later, I had drummed up more than just Gear Up schools to participate in a race here in South Texas. The high schools in San Benito, La Feria and Santa Rosa purchased the first F-24. In addition, we were able to work with the Brownsville Independent School District to support their 10 middle schools with F-24 kits. Since I was working with robotics programs in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) and with my position as director for the Rio Grande Valley Regional Science and Engineering Fair, this allowed for us to increase the number of teams to more schools in the RGV. By then, we had folks from GPUSA help us with an educator workshop and things were looking very promising to host the first ever GPUSA in Texas. We had over 40 educators in attendance at the workshop. This would set the pace for us hosting our race in April of 2018.
At this first-ever GPUSA race in Texas, we had 31 teams compete. This included 10 middle schools, 16 high schools, and 5 college level race teams. This event involved many collaborators including UTRGV, the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport, Sports Car Club of America, Siemens, The City of Brownsville, Tipton Ford Auto Group, the Brownsville Public Utilities Board and other local sponsors and volunteers.
Several teams have since ventured to other races in Alabama and Georgia. The STEMS Alumni Association, a 501-c-3 non-profit organization in the RGV, has sponsored several teams to participate at other races outside of Texas. As president of the STEMS Alumni Association, I have been able to leverage funds for students from the San Benito, La Feria and Santa Rosa to compete in Huntsville for the Jemison race and the La Grange race in Georgia. In both cases, these teams did well. The Georgia race had Santa Rosa and San Benito rise to the top in certain categories.
Currently, I am working on reaching other areas of Texas to compete in Green Power racing. Due to our close ties with SCCA, I am working with Motor Speedway Resort (MSR) – Houston in Angleton, Texas to establish a state-level race. It will be on April 28-29, 2019. MSR is providing the race track, track facilities, and staff to make this a successful event. The STEMS Alumni Association is providing logistical support in addition to sponsoring several teams. Teams will be able to visit a real race facility and race on a race track. It will be an experience of a lifetime for most of the students.
We anticipate growing Green Power races in Texas and hope to see teams from Alabama, Georgia, Utah and other parts of the country compete in Texas in the near future.