Virginia Tech’s Jesse Alley: Hometown Hero

Virginia Tech’s Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team (HEVT) leader Jesse Alley returned to his hometown of Kingsport, Tennessee in November to educate middle and high school students about green technology, sustainability, and the field of engineering.

“Going home to Kingsport was really awesome for me,” said Jesse. “It was very rewarding (and a ton of fun) to come back home to a hero’s welcome and talk to the students of Kingsport.” Jesse believes it is important and worthwhile to give back to your hometown and provide opportunities to students that they wouldn’t otherwise have.

“One of my big goals for this trip was to inspire kids—to put it in their heads that they are capable of being engineers or pursuing some kind of science- or engineering-related career path,” said Jesse.

HEVT set up three educational stations for the Kingsport middle school students. At station one, Jesse gave a presentation on the importance of sustainability and renewable resources and shared background about the EcoCAR 2 competition.

Fellow team members Tamara Smith, Eli White, Virginia Hyer and Sarah Kilbourne manned station two. They facilitated an activity challenging students to create their own hybrid cars. “Some of the kids came up with very complex systems to power their vehicle, which was quite surprising to me,” said Eli. Virginia agreed, “we definitely have some future engineers from Kingsport!”

At the last station, team leader Jon King, electrical subteam leader Adam Broda and electrical subteam member Josh Hickman offered students a close-up look at the first-place car from EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge. Educational videos on hybrid technologies were also shown. Josh spent time showing students the battery pack and answering questions about the car. “I’m glad we got the chance to share with the sixth graders,” he said. “Hopefully it will get them to think about using renewable energy and move away from fossil fuels.”

At Dobyns-Bennett High School, Jesse’s alma mater, the team spoke to several classes. Thanks to the help of the school’s automotive department, a vehicle lift was used to display the car so students could view the underside. “It was encouraging to see people who really liked hearing about what we do,” Adam said. “As a high schooler, I wasn’t really aware of what it meant to be an engineer, and hopefully we shined a little light on that subject for kids who may be interested in that field.”

All in all, the team members saw the event in Kingsport as a success. “It was a great day and I thought that both the kids and HEVT benefited,” said Adam.

We hope the schools enjoyed the events as much as Virginia Tech did. Maybe we’ll see future generations of EcoCAR engineers come out of Kingsport!