Greenpower: the electric car challenge


28 March 2017

Author: Amber O'Connor


Greenpower is an electric car challenge that requires students, guided by their teachers and industry mentors, to design, build and then race an electric car.

The project was first launched in 1999 with just a handful of schools taking part. Since then, Greenpower has expanded greatly and is now working with over 8000 students in 500 schools across the UK. Students taking part in the initiative race their hand built cars in heats to qualify for the final race and be in with a chance of winning the title. However, the project isn’t just about winning. Greenpower is about gaining essential skills and knowledge in STEM subjects that could encourage students to consider a career in one of those areas.

Siemens ITCL (Industrial Turbine Company Limited), based in Warwick, has partnered with a local girls’ school in Stratford to take on the Greenpower challenge. Launching in October 2016, the school allocated the project as an extra-curricular activity to students aged 17-18. For the Year 13’s looking to explore engineering, the project gives them excellent skills to take forward in their chosen career path after completion of sixth form.

Taking on the challenge

Nine students have taken on the challenge and are now just weeks away from driving their electric powered car for the first time. The girls started the project with a simple kit that needed full assembly and fine adjustments. Taking part in the project has encouraged them to work as a team, using weekly build sessions to progress the project to meet the first race date deadline. For some of the students, this is their first experience using a variety of tools and working on a project that consists of so many different, hands-on elements.

Siemens ITCL supports the girls in their project and provides them with key engineering information. Talking through the different components and systems with the students ensures they have the knowledge to understand and complete their project.

We have created information packs to take into the school and present to the girls during their lessons, ensuring every student taking part in the project has a suitable knowledge of the electric car and its components. In order to reach the final race, it is key that the students understand why the steering is set up in a specific way, why we adjust the angle of the wheels, why we need to adjust tyre pressures for track conditions and so on.

Inspiring future careers

The majority of students taking part in this year’s project with Siemens have applied to top universities to study STEM subjects. This is partially due to the influence of the Greenpower project and the enjoyment they got from it. Other students have indicated that they are looking to pursue a career in a STEM area through alternative routes, such as an apprenticeship scheme.

As the project lead for the Greenpower project, I established a working relationship with the school and students taking part. In particular, I wanted to connect with predominantly girls, as there is currently a massive shortage of young women taking up STEM subjects and careers.

So far, the feedback from the project has been excellent; the girls are thoroughly enjoying the project despite the hours they have to commit during school time and around their critical exams.

All of the students are keen to get to the races which start in just a few weeks, and we are wishing them the best of luck for their race days. During the races, the students will need to use all of the skills they have learnt throughout the project to overcome any issues they may face – of course the Siemens Warwick team will be there to lend a hand and support them!

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