K’NEX: The NeXt Challenge

While the engineering students on the Penn State EcoCAR team are working on their E-REV GM-donated vehicle, members of the outreach team are teaching students how to design their own vehicles.

The outreach team hosts educational events to stress the importance of designing hybrid vehicles and using alternative fuels. Students at the K-12 outreach events are assigned to design their own vehicle, using K’NEX Collect and Build Kits, to get a feel for what the Penn State team does for the EcoCAR competition.

Bald Eagle students building their K’NEX vehicle

At an eighth grade presentation at Bald Eagle Junior High in Wingate, Pennsylvania, students in a physical science class paired into teams to build their souped up K’NEX vehicles.

After several drag races to see which design was faster and more aerodynamic, Penn State’s co-team leader, Dave Fecek, asked the students how many groups used directions.

Drag Racing!

“In the EcoCAR competition, you don’t get a complete roadmap,” said Fecek. “You have to take what you have learned in school and apply it to real life.”
The K’NEX Collect and Build Kits turned out to be a wonderful addition to the classroom. In fact, students at Bald Eagle Junior High said this was by far, the best class of the year.
The Penn State team has more than 10 educational outreach events planned this semester. The team plans on upgrading from K’NEX to fuel cell kits in the near future!