It's Electric!

group at North High builds electric cars in class

Lisa de Felice, photos by Andrea Paulseth |

While most tech ed students are busy making birdhouses, North High School’s Advanced Tech Ed class is doing something a little different; they are building electric cars. While homemade birdhouses are pretty cool, these vehicles stand to save our environment, our wallets, and the nation’s dependance on foreign oil. Plus they’re really cool.

Since 1995, students in the advanced classes have been working on cars, and, in the past, the venture has been known as the High Mileage Vehicle Challenge. Today, it is called the Electrical Vehicle Team, and holds the goal of “greening up” the environment. EVT is comprised of 13 students, mostly seniors and juniors, each of which is responsible for their own contributions, whether that be soliciting businesses for donations or doing paperwork and ordering supplies.

Tyler Miller, a senior at North, is the President of EVT, and has been working on cars for two years. Miller is in charge of keeping in touch with the class’s teacher, Daniel Stanford, and making sure all the paperwork gets done. Miller said his interest in building electric cars stems from his concerns for the environment, plus it helps bring him a step closer to his goal of becoming an engineer – a goal he shares with several other team members.

The students will be working on two cars this year. Each car requires between 200 and 250 hours of work and costs approximately $3,500. So far the EVT has raised more than $5,000 from local businesses and they have about $1,000 left to go. When the cars are ready to race, those who contributed will have their names on the cars and some snazzy T-shirts to wear.

    While building the cars, the students have to keep in mind the point system they will be judged on at the races: Endurance, (the most important category), Braking, Maneuverability, and Design.

Racing against other high schools, the EVT will perform at two different races come the end of April and beginning of May. Peers judge the first competition, the Elk Heart Race at Road America, while professionals take over at the second, the Wisconsin International Raceway in Appleton. Miller says the team has placed well in past years and hopes to repeat that success. If they place first, Miller says the EVT is entitled to “bragging rights” for “coming up with new ideas no one’s ever come up with before.”

Daniel Stanford is the Tech Ed teacher that has taken over this program just this year from Damon Smith. Stanford says he can tell the students are “dedicated and have lots of ambition.” He believes that the students are so into the electrical car challenge because “it was presented to them as a challenge, so when they’re challenged, they want to complete it, and that gives them motivation.”

Regardless of what motivates them, you have to admit that high school students building the cars of the future, is really, really cool. It sure beats a birdhouse.