In Year 2, the West Virginia University EcoCAR team worked diligently to spread the word about the EcoCAR competition to local students. The team started its outreach by sending an informational letter to school principals asking if they’d like the team to present to their students. The response was overwhelming!
In total, the WVU team has reached more than 1,100 students by visiting seven schools, in five counties and across two states. Although K-12 outreach is a scored element of the EcoCAR competition, it wasn’t a chore to the WVU team.
“We really enjoyed traveling to each school and talking with students and teachers about our participation in the EcoCAR program. It was a great way to promote WVU’s involvement in a national competition, but also a way for us to reach out to kids and get them thinking about college and potential careers. The kids’ excitement showed through the thank you cards and ‘Good Luck WVU’ posters they made for us and those memories will always stay with our team,” noted Nicole Fernandes, the WVU team’s outreach coordinator.
Each visit was different, but every student and teacher welcomed the team into their school with interest and hospitality.
“At the end of our presentation we give the students a chance to ask questions about EcoCAR. During one visit, a boy sitting in the front row kept shooting his hand up to ask a question. He then proceeded to propose a new challenge for the EcoCAR engineers; to make an EcoCAR out of a Mustang! The boy said he would send in his own designs to help,” recalls Marilyn McCarthy, an outreach team member. “It made me feel like we had impacted his life.”
The engineering team members agree that impacting young students’ lives was a very poignant part of the school visits.
“I remember going to Liberty High School in Clarksburg, WV where we gave a presentation at their science career day. A teacher stopped us in the hallway on our way out and thanked us for coming. She said that many of the students we spoke to would be first generation college students, and we really opened their eyes. It made me think about how fortunate I am to be part of the EcoCAR competition. It was also nice to know I was influencing students,” noted engineering team radar, Alan Kuskil.
Finding team members who had the time to visit the schools was sometimes difficult.
“Our team gets really busy, and the school visits sometimes conflict with our schedules, but knowing we have a positive influence on students makes it completely worth it,” said Kuskil.
“Having the EcoCAR team at our school showed our students that they can go to college and participate in cool, exciting competitions. It was very motivating,” said Larry Rogers, a teacher at Lumberport Middle School, in Lumberport, WV.
Not all 1,100 students will want to build and redesign hybrid-electric vehicles in the future, but knowing that they saw the potential to make a difference in the world made the team’s presentations very rewarding!