Designing an electric car is a gearhead’s dream. Even though they are too young to drive themselves, a number of Illinois middle school students got the opportunity to build and race electric cars in the Middle School Electric Car Competition, hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory on April 24. This exciting competition challenges teams to design their own, mini electric cars — no larger than 20 x 40 cm and no heavier than 700 grams — and see which car can race 10 meters the fastest.
The competition resumed after a year’s hiatus, with new rules adapted to a virtual format. For instance, rather than racing their cars together on competition day, each school sent in a video of racing their car. Despite the changes, the event proved to be a success. “The Electric Car Competition is an important part of Argonne’s educational outreach, and we wanted to make sure that the competition could still happen this year,” said Argonne’s Education Outreach Coordinator Brandon Pope.
“I want to thank you for having the courage to become little engineers and puts your work out there. I think you all did a phenomenal job. It’s just great to see your passion and how smart you all are. Keep going, you’re all going to make a difference in science.” — Lorenzo Gomez, CNH Industrial CCH Lead Engineer
Hadley Junior High School joined the Electric Car Competition for the first time this year, and the students enjoyed the great science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) experience. Not only did they have the challenge of constructing their mini cars and scientifically documenting their designs, but they got to meet and talk with experts from both Argonne and CNH Industrial. “My favorite part was talking to professionals who use the engineering processes on a daily basis,” said Hadley student Eli Witcher. “It gave us hope that the skills we learned will transfer to our future careers.”
The students’ professional-level designs and reports impressed the engineers judging the competition, and some engineers even joked about hiring the students already, even though they’re only in middle school right now. “I want to thank you for having the courage to become little engineers and puts your work out there,” CNH Industrial’s Lead Engineer Lorenzo Gomez told students. “I think you all did a phenomenal job. It’s just great to see your passion and how smart you all are. Keep going. You’re all going to make a difference in science.”
“It’s really exciting that the Electric Car Competition could happen this year,” said Argonne’s Education Outreach Lead Jessica Burgess. “It took a lot of effort from many different people — Argonne staff, students, teachers, CNH staff and more — but the fact that we got this to work virtually shows just how much we all value the competition and the STEM impact it leaves on youth. This was an awesome competition, and we hope to see more teams next year.”
The following schools competed in the 2021 Electric Car Competition: Daniel Wright Junior High School (two teams), Hadley Junior High School and Notre Dame Parish School. The winners are as follows:
1st Place – Daniel Wright (Team 1)
2nd Place – Daniel Wright (Team 2)
3rd Place – Notre Dame
1st Place – Daniel Wright (Team 2)
2nd Place – Daniel Wright (Team 1)
3rd Place – Notre Dame
Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.