Technology Education Students Lead the Race to Innovation

Johnny McLeod driving in heat 2.

Manya Kidambi ‘18
EE Co-Editor in Chief
Vittorio Colicci ‘18
EE Head Science Reporter

As fossil fuels slowly become obsolete, the application of alternative energies to everyday life is growing increasingly important. Innovations like electric cars will help free us from an unsustainable dependence on gasoline and could revolutionize how we view transportation. Focusing on developing more efficient and environmentally-friendly vehicles could be the next step to creating a greener planet.

Recently, Transportation Technology students had the opportunity to build their own alternative energy vehicle and compete in a race at the Berlin Raceway in Berlin, CT. The vehicles (more specifically, go carts) each ran on a one horsepower DC electric motor and two 12 volt car batteries. Led by instructor Matthew Iaccarino, the students drove their way to success as they finished in first place for a second consecutive year.

Essentially, the race consisted of four separate heats, each being fifteen minutes long. The goal was to complete as many laps as possible within these heats. Recharging the batteries in between was not permitted, and there were no breaks.

“It doesn’t seem like a long time, but when it’s timed, it feels like forever,” said Mr. Iaccarino.

The driving team consisted of four student drivers, one for each heat. They were Martin Birnbach, AJ Kwieraga, Jonathan MacLeod, and Nate Turner. With a total of 104 laps, the team won the well-deserved first place.

As for whether these vehicles could be implemented into daily life, Mr. Iaccarino notes that there is a sharp contrast between the mechanics of a gas powered vehicle and one that runs on alternative energy.

“Being that they’re strictly electric, the engine systems are completely different. So it’s not anything similar to a gasoline engine. There are a lot of differences between an electric motor and a gas motor. In our case, it’s pretty reliable to a point where we’ve gotten it to [work],” said Mr. Iaccarino.

The team did encounter one hiccup during its race, due to a bug in the electrical system, but it was quickly resolved. As with any new technology, there is some initial room for error, but ultimately, it is the benefits of electric vehicles that make them preferable over their gas-powered predecessors.

A change has already begun in the automobile world with the success of manufacturers like Tesla, but continued research and development are needed for reliability to improve. This means a greater investment of time, energy, and, of course, money into bettering the technical knowledge of today.

As for Mr. Iaccarino’s plans for the future, he believes that this change could begin with his own Transportation Technology class. Given increased funding, additional carts may be brought to future races, and more students could be given the chance to participate. By making this sort of opportunity accessible to students today, we can ensure that there will be sustainably run vehicles for the generations of tomorrow.

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