Windsor tech-ed. students build and race electric cars

By Jennifer Coe - ReminderNews
Windsor - posted Thu., Jan. 16, 2014
A close-up look at Windsor’s electric racer from October 2013. The car came in second in its class. Courtesy photos. - Contributed Photo

Students in the Windsor High School Technology Education Department have enjoyed success in an electric car competition, most recently coming in second place in their division.

The Connecticut Electrathon Challenge is a race held two times a year that gives students a chance to build an electric racer from the ground up, and see it hit the track at Lime Rock Park in Salisbury, Conn. The Windsor students took their vehicle to compete twice in 2013, both in May and October.

The challenge of creating a competitive racing vehicle from the ground up comes with all different sorts of problems the students need to answer throughout the process. Will the vehicle’s shell be strong enough? Will the battery be powerful enough? Will it make it all the way around the track? It takes months to run through all the potential scenarios and to find the answers that can be applied on race day.

In order to build the car, the students break up into different teams, each team handling one aspect of the design: brakes, drive train, shell, etc. As the car comes together, different groups may be called on several times to tweak and repair, so that everything works smoothly together.

Speaking about the car’s first time out, WHS senior Robert Zawasky said, “The race [in May] went pretty well. We put in some pretty good times,” he said. “But one of the spokes came loose and our wheel was wobbling, so we got disqualified.” 
The October race proved to be a different experience.

“During our October race, we finished second in our class and made a significant improvement over our first outing,” said Matthew Dadona, a teacher and mentor in the Technology Education Department. “The whole team was ecstatic about the second-place finish. We were able to run for 56 minutes and completed 38 laps before our batteries died,” said Dadona.

Windsor had 19 other racers to go up against that day.

“We had no failures,” said Zawasky. But he added that the car eventually “ran out of batteries and couldn’t get up the hill.” Regardless, the group came in second in its class.

Now working toward the next race in May of 2014, this group of about 20 students is starting the design process from the frame up, once again.

“It’s kind of cool seeing the process from beginning till the end,” said Zawasky. “For this next race, we will be all set and prepared ahead of time.”

“Every team is out to perform their best, but they are also very willing to help another team be successful,” said Dadona. “We have a lot of fun throughout the day grilling food, preparing for our race, watching other teams compete, and the race.”

Zawasky himself has found this experience so very positive, he has decided he would like to pursue a degree in technology education and teach high school students. “My teachers have inspired me,” he said. “I have fallen in love with the concept of being able to pass on knowledge.”

Zawasky could possibly be back in a few years, heading up his own team of Windsor High School Electrathon students.

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