Preparing the next generation of EV engineers

Placing a display of 6th grade (12 year old) students between the Janus battery electric truck and the university’s electric car racing team at the Noosa EV display was pure genius. The students, as a new generation of drivers, presented their school project with remote control cars and battery swapping, and when they had a moment, they sat in the truck or admired the sleek racers. Truly priming the next generation there.

Teachers Hamish Black and John Fuller (contract teacher in high school) engaged Hamish’s 6th grade class with remote control cars, then moved on to class projects on alternative energy and its uses for transportation in the vast countryside Australian. They came up with the solution of using interchangeable batteries (as an alternative to current electric vehicle trends). At the RMC level, it was an AA battery that was swapped – what would that be at the level of a class 8 car or prime mover? “Initially we looked at the potential applications of the technology in scooters in the Asia region and then transitioned to passenger vehicles in the Australian context. If AA batteries can be the same all over the world, why shouldn’t there be a standard car battery in the world that can be replaced when needed,” Hamish explained.

Wait until they see what NIO is doing!

Class work. Photo courtesy of Hamish Black.

All the students were immediately won over by the concept. Initially, it was the boys who showed the most interest, but as the class work increased, the girls became more involved and quickly took the lead. These 12-year-olds will be driving in a few years, so this unit of work has real-world applications. Even now, they influence their parents’ decisions.

Funding was provided by Zero Emissions Noosa to purchase the cars. The students helped John build a charging station. Links have been established with the Education Queensland CTC unit on Energy, Electricity and Simple Circuits and with the Australian Science Curriculum Content Descriptors. The main one was ACSSU 097: Electrical energy can be transferred and transformed in electrical circuits and can be generated from a range of sources. But ACSIS 232, 107, 103 and 110 were also used.

Full-class 90-minute lessons were given once every fortnight for one term. The students plotted routes to tourist sites (Cairns, Charleville, Sydney for a surf trip), identifying the locations of battery swapping stations. The science unit was also linked with an English unit on advertising and the students enthusiastically produced posters and brochures.

Next year the school hopes to revisit the program and perhaps expand its reach under the current curriculum, but nothing is locked in at this point. “It was great to see the kids so enthusiastic at the Noosa EV Expo. They enjoyed passing on their knowledge to the adults walking past, citing the range and battery density,” says Hamish.

Holly, John, Grace, India, Madeline and Hamish at the Noosa EV Expo. Photo courtesy of Noosa EV Expo.

The class liked the idea that a battery swap station could be used as a community battery and also to stabilize the grid. And you would always have access to the latest technology, as old batteries were replaced and reused.

May this inspire other teachers, classes, and students to investigate electric vehicles as a real-world learning experience. I’d love to hear from you if you’re involved in projects like these that are preparing the next generation.

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