If you have driven along Veterans Memorial High School (VMHS) on Mayberry Road recently, you may have done a double take at an unusual site on the track and field competition track. That running track has also become a test track for an electric car being built by engineering students.

Students in the Practicum in STEM course are taking on a new project this year. They are preparing for the GreenpowerUSA competition. This involves the students in building and refining an electric car for a race against other high school student teams in April. The race is a 90-minute road race to be held at the Brownsville-South Padre Island Airport. Each school will have a team of three drivers. Each driver will race for 30 minutes.

Each student team gets a car kit and basic instructions. It is then up to the students to figure out how to piece the car together, work out technical issues like efficiency, and also design, build, and create the exterior body of the car.

“This gives the students a chance to experience automotive technology, especially sustainable technology,” explained Roy Villanueva, teacher. “The project itself requires the students to bring in everything they have learned throughout their high school years, including physics, math, engineering, and many other courses.”

Villanueva said the Hispanic Engineering Science and Technology (HESTEC) organization is bringing the competition to the Rio Grande Valley for the first time.

“The coolest part is seeing the car run,” said Jorge Ginez, VMHS student. “After all the effort we have put in since the beginning of the school year, it's been fun driving it and watching it, and the progress we are making. That is the most exciting part for me so far.”

Students have also said this project is already impacting their thoughts about what to pursue after they graduate from high school.

“At first I wasn’t sure what kind of engineering program or pathway I wanted,” said Erick Sanchez, VMHS student. “I was not sure if I wanted a civil engineering, or a mechanical engineer, or a chemical engineer. After this project, I think I have decided to become either a mechanical engineer or maybe a manufacturing engineer.”

“I always wanted to do engineering,” said Daniel Quintanilla, VMHS student. “But now I am more interested in it than I was before.”

“I have been thinking about engineering for a while,” said Ginez. “But I also thought about possibilities in the medical field. But then seeing my own work actually come to life, it's amazing, and I want to pursue mechanical engineering because of it.”

The VMHS GreenpowerUSA team is currently working on how they want to proceed with designing and constructing the body of their racer, in addition to tweaking other operating aspects of the car.

You can view a short video about their GreenpowerUSA car project through the district’s YouTube channel at, https://youtu.be/8lMuookeSIo.