The transportation class, led by Kyle Hembree, is the capstone of the engineering classes offered at Northridge and requires several prerequisites to enroll.
“We used Autodesk Inventor which is 3-D modeling software. The juniors and seniors had already been through engineering classes and had a simple machine background,” Hembree said.
The hefty $6,500 cost to participate in the program was entirely raised through fundraising efforts of the participating students. “The students created a marketing pack to show to local businesses. I was really impressed at how much the community was willing to help out, all the way through Elkhart,” he said.
Jet Technologies, Middlebury Produce and B&J Rocket among others were major sponsors.
Other area schools have participated in the program sponsored by Indiana Mathematics and Science Educational Alliance (IMSTEA) for years but this was the first year Northridge had the opportunity to compete. The rookie team was awarded the best first year team, an honor which made Hembree and the students very proud.
The competition was held June 8th at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Each team consisting of 14 students or less was judged based on maximum gas mileage in a competition aptly named, The Super Mileage Challenge.
Building a car from the ground up that gets maximum gas mileage posed a challenge to the students, but through trial and error the class learned critical problem solving skills. “They learned failure was an option. We went through four to five designs for the frame alone. I told the students it’s O.K. to fail as long as you learn something and when you move on you apply it to what you’re doing,” he said.
Once in Indianapolis, the mechanical engineering was not over.“They had mechanical issues when they got there but this is their baby. When there were broken parts they went to work. Nobody complained. I saw a big change in them from the beginning of the year. Back then they got upset when something broke, at the end they just fixed it,” Hembree said.
Aside from problem solving skills and mechanical engineering the students learned marketing, fundraising and communication skills. Many came in to work on the vehicle over their Spring Break. “They were really proud, they took some real ownership which was pretty cool to see,” he said.
The class is hoping to continue the program next year as long as fundraising efforts are met to support the continuation of the transportation class.