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Utah K-12 students learn by building, competing with electric race cars

Posted at 10:01 PM, Apr 20, 2021

GRANTSVILLE, Utah — The track at the Utah Motorsports Campus was alive Tuesday with the sounds of electric race cars for the 2021 Mountain West Grand Prix.

The competition is very unique as it is all manned by students from elementary, middle and high schools across the state.

More than 100 students competed in two different classes of cars: the Goblin and the F24 class.

The Goblin class was primarily elementary schools, while the faster F24 cars were middle and high schoolers with more competition.

“It's kind of nerve-racking, not going to lie, because there's all these kids and all these cars,” said Autum Edwards, the driver of the number 111 car from Delta High School.

“We’re just trying to go fast and not hitting anybody,” said Chloe Bryan, her co-driver.

The whole point of the competition, which is put on by the Utah State University STARS! GEAR UP program, is to teach kids skills in math, science and engineering while building these cars.

“You get a sense of accomplishment when you can see it out there,” Bryan said as she and Edwards prepared to go racing.

The cars are all-electric, with a 9-volt battery supply that pushes the cars between 20 and 30 miles per hour.

“You have to think about it... 'Well, am I going too fast? Am I going too slow? How long is this battery going to last?'” Edwards explained.

The students have to manage that battery to complete the greatest number of laps within the 90-minute race time.

Beyond skills in the STEM field, the race also teaches an amazing amount of teamwork, which is something the team from Cottonwood High School knows really well.

“Our team consists of 97 percent immigrants and refugees coming from underdeveloped countries,” Yousuf Haiadri told FOX 13, adding that that makes them stronger as a team.

Another team member from Cottonwood added: “We use our different ideas and connect them together so we can actually get somewhere in the competitions."

While that team was getting ready, their teacher Mr. Perez watched.

“I would like to be there helping them, but looking at them fixing the problem and understanding that and growing because of that it is priceless," Perez said.

The teams completed a few practice laps in their cars and then made final adjustments before heading out.

The race was 90 minutes long with drivers on each team switching out periodically, with pit-stop speed also playing a factor.

Click here for a list of rules, as well as more information on the event and the cars.