Electric Car Competition
Questa’s middle school was invited to compete in this year’s NM Electric Car Competition on November 4 at Kennedy Middle School in Albuquerque, along with 50 other middle schools. Two teams of six members each were recruited from the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade middle schools to attempt to build two small electric cars to compete in races.
Each team was supplied with these supplies: a balsa wood platform, small electric motor, axles, wheels, battery pack, and multiple gears. The gears were to be used in building a workable transmission and motor gear. The balsa wood platform had to be cut out to fit the transmission gears, which in turn had to be mounted on an axle which was hot-glued to the car body. The motor needed a gear mounted on it and then synced to the transmission, and then hot-glued in place. The battery pack also needed to be attached to the body with Velcro so it could be removed, and batteries replaced. A Morton Salt container had to be mounted on the body for weight. The salt container needed to be removed during the competition so we could use the salt container provided by the judges.
The month of October was spent constructing cars and running timed laps to see which set of gears would be fastest on a 10-meter track. This process entailed trying different gear ratios. After many different gear ratio speed tests and time trials, a car put together by the girls’ team was selected to represent Questa’s middle school at the competition.
Along the way, we lost multiple team members to playing sports and ended up with three girls and one boy at the Albuquerque competition. We knew our car could do a 4.67-second run and felt confident it could compete. We had geared our car for a drop start and were surprised to find that the competition raceway included a six-foot starting gate. During the first 20 minutes of the competition, we observed that the fastest times were running in the low 5 seconds, which excited everyone on the team. Indeed, we had the fastest time recorded, until some other middle schoolers who had previously competed and knew about the starting runway, had their cars geared for this initial runup. They started in the low 4 seconds and a few were running in the high 3 seconds. For those of you who don’t know about gearing, it takes a low gear to start from a stop, which limits your top speed, while a higher gear ratio when you have a six-foot runup can create a faster speed.
Our 4.67 time put us in 12th place out of 39 teams. We learned a lot about electric car racing and will build our cars accordingly for next year’s competition.
Along the way, our team learned how to cut out car bodies, design a t-shirt, live with hot-glu-gun burns, redesign gear boxes, and have a good time.