This past November, 7,000 students from all over Victoria, Australia, flocked to Maryborough for the 18th annual RACV Energy Breakthrough. Students, teachers, parents, and local industry professionals work together to build vehicles or machines that are an “energy breakthrough.”
Nicknamed the “green grand prix,” schools compete in a variety of disciplines while learning about the importance of energy efficiency and environmental stewardship. One of the marquee events is the human-powered vehicle race where various pedal-powered designs, mostly recumbents with super-sleek aerodynamic fairings, speed along race courses.
Other events include a 14-hour three-wheeled race as well as a 24-hour time trial with a hybrid-vehicle category that combines pedal, electrical, and solar power. Winners are determined based on the quality of the students’ knowledge of energy topics as well as the efficiency and speed of their vehicles.
The mission of the event is to provide students with a concrete project that utilizes their math, science, and interpersonal skills and also emphasizes physical fitness. As event director John Stafford told the Australian newspaper The Age, today’s students are far more knowledgeable about sustainability and greenhouse gases than when the program began in 1991.
The classic school kid’s question of “when are we ever gonna use this stuff” is answered with a resounding “here and now!” The real world problems of designing super-efficient new designs put the kid’s math and science skills to the test. They also need to work efficiently with one another as well as with adults. And come race time, physical fitness plays a crucial role.
Although the event only lasts 4 days per year, teams work on their projects throughout the school year.
The title sponsor of the event is the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria – the regional equivalent to the U.S.’ AAA roadside assistance company. How refreshing to see such a company getting behind energy efficiency and sustainable transportation. You’d never see such an attitude or initiative from AAA, a company that’s better known for Paving the Road to Hell.
What a fantastic idea – sure beats the pants off of the pinewood derby model car races I remember as a kid. It’d be great to see similar programs
Via The Age.
- Eugene School District Keeps Kids out of Cars
- Cars Lose Australian Commute Race
- Pedal that Forklift
- So Fat, It’s Normal: Kids Ditch Walking To School and Drive Instead
- Bush and McCain’s Energy Answer: Let’s Drill Some More!