Electric Racing At Its Finest
More than 50 cars arrived, along with their teams from high schools across Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa at the MidAmerican Motorplex raceway just off Interstate 29, near Pacific Junction, Iowa, some 20 miles south of Omaha. The OPPD/NPPD Power Drive finals are the culmination of a Spring-time tradition now in its 12th year that engages hundreds of students from scores of high schools and even a handful of colleges who spend the winter designing, engineering and assembling their battery-powered racers, as seen in the above video.
Started in 1999 by the Omaha Public Power District, the event quickly spread across Nebraska with the blessing of the State's Board of Education. The rules are relatively simple. Build a safe, maneuverable vehicle that is powered by 64 pounds (29kg) of lead acid batteries and is capable of being driven for at least 60 minutes. Points are not only given for the most number of laps completed in an hour, but for handling, stopping, engineering, teamwork and more. There are four classes of vehicles: novice, standard, advanced and exhibition; the latter reserved for visiting high school and college teams.
In speaking with a couple of the Nebraska teams, it is clear that this is an extra-curricular program that these kids love. According to the program instructor from Lakeview High School in Columbus, this year, 48 students signed up for just 24 slots. They had to hold a lottery to see who would get in the program. The team members from Syracuse, Nebraska felt this was one of the most valuable programs in their high school curriculum, bringing together math, science, engineering, and vocational arts into a fun sports event that gives them skills for life. Even the instructors with whom EV World spoke found the program rejuvenating to their own educational careers. And for the schools and their teams, the cost -- apart from travel to the half dozen statewide meets -- is minimal. The Syracuse instructor estimated the cost for his team and their two cars at just US$3,000.
Similar programs are run in other States at both the high school, college and even semi-professional levels. To learn more about Nebraska's Power Drive program visit http://www.oppd.com/aboutus/powerdrive/ or Google electrathon racing.
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