Sam Baker, Head of Business and Education Partnerships, Mark Rutherford School, Bedford (1,231 pupils): 'For several years, our school has taken part in the Greenpower Electric Car Challenge. This requires students, guided by their teachers and an engineering mentor, to design, build and race an electric car. As any racing team will tell you, success takes dedication, time, resources – and cash! Prize money is a welcome source of income, but students regularly fundraise through cake sales or non-uniform days.
The team has also been supported by local and national organisations, through sponsorship and donations of materials and expertise. For example, Palmer Sport provided the initial set of batteries and made their race track at Bedford Autodrome available for testing; the local Tesco gave £300 to get us started; the Rotary Club gives us funding each season; a metal fabrication business provides aluminium and welding; a boat-building company supplies fibre glass mouldings; Bedford Bodyshop helps with spray painting; 3M gives tapes; Smart Hosting UK hosts the team’s website.
As well as financial planning and fundraising, students experience a range of cross-curricular STEAM activities. Naturally, Design Technology and resistant materials support the core part of the project, where electronics, mechanics, aerodynamics, design plans, project leadership skills, use of equipment and materials and health and safety considerations are vital. But other members of the team contribute creative skills: graphic design students deal with the aesthetics of the cars; IT students manage the team’s website; students from food technology are involved in catering for events; media studies students get involved in scripting a 15-minute race commentary.
Factors that are key to sustaining a successful project are: a leadership team that promotes the value of extra-curricular activities; Heads of Department willing to share ownership of the project; a mentor who commits on a weekly basis to providing expertise; staff responsible for engaging with local businesses to secure support; students who understand the value of the skills they are learning. And, of course, success breeds success – winning tournaments is what drives the passion of everyone involved and keeps us participating year after year.'