Madison City Schools getting in the race car business

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MADISON, Ala. -- Madison City Schools may not be the most likely sponsor name to find on a race car, but now it fits.

As part of the STEM program, which focuses on science, technology, engineering and math, the school system – with corporate donations and support from Siemens and Northrup Grumman  -- middle school and high school students in the Madison system will soon be hard at work learning what it takes to build race cars.

The single-seat, electric cars will start from kits as students take a hands-on approach to the engineering and technology involved in building a car’s electrical and mechanical systems, along with designing a car body that is aerodynamic and solid. Weight and, obviously, speed will also be crucial for a winning team.

The plan, school officials say, is for elementary students to eventually begin on a kit car, with middle school students taking part in a more advanced model and racing those cars. And, for high school students to design, build and race a car at an international Greenpower competition in England.

Superintendent Dee Fowler said this morning during the unveiling of car kits, which were donated by Siemens and Northrop Grumman, that the biggest change in education in the last few years is “application,” the emphasis on hands-on learning and practical understanding.

A race team from James Clemons High School provided a demonstration of the car they built with a donation from Sanmina-SCI. Driver Ryan Dunn, a ninth-grader at James Clemons, and other race team members Ryan Pettus and Nicholas Thompson were on hand.

Students from Bob Jones, Discovery and Liberty Middle received kits today and the work will begin in earnest.

Bob Jones engineering teacher Jessye Gaines told the assembled crowd that the future of sustainable engineering is “actually in this room right now.”

“So dealing with limited resources and having to be creative about how you use those resources and how you make those resources last is something that I see as really, really applicable,” Gaines said.

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