I am ecstatic to be involved with the launch of Greenpower Benelux, a STEM education project where schoolchildren and students can design, build, and race their own 100% single seater electric car.
I spent last weekend driving the demonstrator Greenpower car around at a special E-Mobility event in the city of Genk, Belgium and then again at the Electric Night Driving event in Greenville, Houthalen.
The project itself is not new, having run successfully in the UK for 20 years with over 600 participating schools, but 2017 saw the inaugural race for the Benelux region in Belgium back in June and now, the project has been launched for schools ready for the 2017/18 season.
Greenpower allows schools to make the project as elaborate as they like, depending on their equipment and capabilities etc. The batteries (2 x 12V) and motor are standard, but after that, they are free to design and make as much of the car themselves as they like, within the rules. Or, alternatively, they can purchase various standard parts to their car, up to having a full chassis, which they just need to bolt together. They must make the body panels themselves.
The best part of this system is that it makes sure that teams of all levels and budgets can be included and take part.
Teams design the car using free PLM software provided by Siemens, which also includes lots of other useful resources, such as lesson plans focusing on certain elements of the car, and some standard designs/instruction manuals.
The teams then come together to race the cars in a thrilling finale where the right balance between speed and efficiency are crucial. The race sees teams drive around a circuit for 1-1.5 hours, trying to travel as far as possible (as many laps) as they can. The teams will perform pitstops and driver changeovers during this time. They do not change or charge their batteries during this time and the cars can travel at a maximum of around 80km/h.
For the Benelux region at the moment, there are 2 categories:
Formula 24: School students aged roughly between 11-18
Formula 24+: Students from colleges or higher education institutions, aged 18-26
The inaugural race back in June featured 6 cars built by teams from the VDAB in Belgium, an education platform for 18+ students that did not go to university and now wish to get qualifications. The teams raced hard for the crowds of general public attending and we witnessed an exciting race, with plenty of driver personality.
Greenpower is highly regarded in the engineering community and world of motorsport for the hands-on experience it gives participants. It’s also a fantastic tool for helping encourage more young women into these disciplines, as typically Greenpower (and other student motorsport competitions) see a much higher percentage of women taking part than you see actually working in the industry. This means the next job is for the industry (and to some extent universities) to retain the interest of these young women from school to career.
As a STEM education project, Greenpower Benelux ticks all the boxes, as it gives students the opportunity to build a real-world product, hone their teamwork skills, and also promotes sustainable mobility. On top of all that, of course, it’s so much fun and the students obviously love what they are doing.
For more information, head over to the Greenpower Benelux website or their social media accounts.