STEM on Steroids: Students Design Electric Vehicles

Senior Ethan Zahrt drives the electric vehicle he helped design

High school students put their STEM skills to work by designing a car for the future at the 11th annual Square One Innovative Vehicle Design Mobility Challenge. More than half a dozen Kenowa Hills students competed against other teams from 40 schools across the Great Lakes region in the event at Mcity, a vehicle proving ground in Ann Arbor.

Gov. Rick Snyder and auto industry executives attended the competition earlier this month, when students test-drove electric vehicles they had designed in year-long projects. They competed in three categories:  a full-scale innovative vehicle design challenge featuring gas-powered go-kart kits converted to electric vehicles; an autonomous IVD challenge, where students navigated toddler-sized jeep vehicles through an obstacle course using driverless technology; and a mini IVD challenge featuring high-speed remote-control vehicles.

The event is sponsored by Square One Education Network, a nonprofit public foundation that helps prepare students for college and careers related to science, technology, engineering and math. Kenowa was the sole school district competing from Kent ISD.

The Kenowa students had to work within a budget while finding outside resources to help them understand the wiring of electric cars, said Mike Johnson, instructor of applied technology and design. Competing in the full-scale and Mini IVD events, they placed first in three categories and second in another.

“Students learned to design, fabricate, adjust, modify, and in some cases redo a lot of their process, just like any business does to prepare a product for the public use,” Johnson said. “These students were true innovative designers, as most of what they had to do and learn was beyond what I even know.”


Full Scale Innovative Vehicle Design Challenge

Competing in the Square One IVD Mobility Challenge were, from left, Kyser Weih, Jacob Simon, Brenden Baker, Brady Hill, instructor Mike Johnson, Andrew Veldman, Ethan Zahrt, Bailey Hamblin and Westin Punches
Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles's full bio.


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