After many after-school hours planning, cutting and welding, students in Ossining High School's Engineering Club drove a car they constructed around a hilly track 43 laps to place second in an electric car competition.
"I think this is definitely the biggest and most impressive thing we've ever worked on," said senior Mark Carbonaro, who plans to study alternative energy in college.
Students competed in the novice class of the Electrathon electric car race in Lime Rock, Conn. June 3, driving their car for one hour at a speed of about 30 miles per hour.
"Our car worked really well. There were other cars with more advanced designs but they didn't last the whole hour," said physics teacher Mark Scinta, who led the Engineering Club along with teacher Doug Albrecht.
Powered by two 12-volt batteries, the students' electric car looks like a sleek capsule. It is maneuvered by two handles with brakes that resemble bicycle handles. The car is equipped with safety features including a five-point seat belt and a roll bar that protects the driver if the vehicle rolls over.
According to Scinta, the electric car came to Ossining High School four years ago as a kit. Students assembled the car so it could run during the first three years, but the car was not competition-ready until this year.
This year, students had to fix their car's brakes and raise the body of the car so the motor would be farther off the ground. They also had to install a voltmeter and speedometer, a seatbelt, side mirrors and the safety roll bar.
Working on the car involved a lot of spatial understanding and creativity in constructing components, students said, as well as skills in cutting and welding metal and plastic. As students became more skilled at engineering, they spent less time standing around looking at the car and more time getting things done.
At the Electrathon race, Carbonaro and classmate Mike Zavarella took turns driving their car, while senior James Austen acted as pit chief.
"I like that when we finished (this project) we got to reap the benefits of our labor," Zavarella said.
There will be plenty of improvements to work on next year, Scinta said. He and Albrecht are seeking local sponsors who can give expertise and materials to make a better car with lighter components and stronger batteries.
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