Lime Rock hosts race for electric cars

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Associated Press

Posted on May 19, 2013 at 12:06 PM

Updated Monday, May 20 at 3:00 AM

SALISBURY, Conn. (AP) — Two flat tires didn't deflate the enthusiasm of the Housatonic Valley Regional High School team that competed in the Electrathon at Lime Rock Park.

In the school's first entry into the electric car competition, drivers Wayne Purdy and Brian Saccardi managed to get their entry around the track nine times.

The students are members of the agricultural mechanics course taught by Mark Burdick, who said he was looking for a project to challenge the students, and Lime Rock Park is right in the school's backyard. Purdy and Saccardi, both seniors, were willing to take on the task, and along with a pit crew of other students and dads, they began building just three weeks before the race after a month of raising funds. They finished it at 11:30 the night before the race.

The object of Electrathons, which take place around the country, is to see how many times an electric car can go around the track in one hour. Cars must meet specific design and safety rules, and are powered by batteries that cannot exceed 64 pounds. Purdy said Housatonic's car, built completely from scratch, has an all-aluminum frame.

The overall successful first-time experience came with a lot of stress.

"Twenty-four hours before the race, we weren't sure we'd be able to run" because of problems with the controls, Purdy said. Then there were the two flats on the front left tire.

The exercise required the team to use problem-solving skills, math, science, physics, computer knowledge — and competitive intelligence. Seeing the designs of other cars and watching them go around the track gave them pointers for next year.

Organizer Michael Grella, a retired technical education teacher from Terryville High School, said this year's competition brought 36 teams from Maine, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut. The competition has taken place at Lime Rock since 2001 and offers trophies in four divisions.

Grella said the program's goal is to develop a sport to improve public understanding of electric cars and to promote problem-solving and critical thinking. The competition also gives students experience in research and design, construction, computers "and most of all, social skills," he said.

All the adults involved stressed the importance of teamwork, which was clearly evident when a team from Maine, which had practiced until 11 the night before and left for Connecticut at 3 a.m., forgot its barbell. (Drivers must meet a 180-pound minimum and they use barbells to accomplish that requirement.) Burdick said they offered to go back to the school and get a barbell for the Maine team to use.

"That's what it's all about — teamwork and cooperation," said Karen Davenport, another ag-ed teacher at Housatonic.

The team thanked the businesses and organizations that helped with the funding, including Jacquier Welding for the aluminum, Perotti Plumbing for money for the motor, Bryant Massey for the flashing for the bodywork, Tech-Air for welding supplies, Housatonic FFA and the school's 21st Century Fund. Sponsors were Central Connecticut State University, whose students monitored the race, attorney Glenn Wicks and Televerse Media.

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Information from: Republican-American, http://www.rep-am.com

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