Competition has never been so hot as thousands of young people from around 70 schools across the South West took part in two days of competitive racing at Newquay Airport.
The annual Greenpower event, the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) extravaganza, is run by Greenpower Educational Trust in partnership with The Cornwall College Group (TCCG).
It’s a regional heat for a national competition for school children where they build and race their very own electric and battery powered cars, known as Formula Goblin and Formula 24 respectively.
The kits for these cars are provided flat packed to each school participating, which have to be built by a team of students in the months leading up to race day.
Cars are then entered into various racing categories on the day of the event for the chance of progressing to the national finals.
The South West heat is by far the biggest in the UK, incorporating almost half of Cornwall’s primary schools and nearly all of its secondary schools, as well as schools from Devon and further afield.
Over 70 Formula Goblin cars from primary schools in the region took to the track ready to get racing on day one of the event. The overall winners were Gorran School in the slalom, Truro High Prep School in the drag race and Gwinear Primary School in the sprint.
Cornish rugby legend Ben Hilton, who is now the headteacher at St Petroc’s School, said he was impressed with the event.
“You could spend a year in the classroom and not teach as much as the children learn at an event like this,” he explained.
“It’s so enriching for them to learn in a practical way. The visuals and experiences they take away are of huge value.”
Teacher from Nansloe Academy Joshua Perry also highlighted the value in attending.
“The children have got so much out of this event, learning all about teamwork, responsibilities and having an important deadline to meet,” he said.
“It’s been a really motivational project and a great incentive – their behaviour has been excellent in the run-up to the event as they wanted to be involved”.
Off the track, there were opportunities for visitors to explore electric cars from Dales Renault, as well as a state-of-the-art Tesla.
There was also a STEM marquee supported by Cornwall EBP, with displays and activities from the Cornwall Marine Academy, Cornwall College, Falmouth Marine School and the University of Exeter in Penryn.
Secondary schools and youth organisations competed on day two of the event, racing their Formula 24 cars.
Hundreds of eager students were up against each other in two 90 minute endurance races around a specially designed track on the airfield in cars built up from scratch with only an electric engine and batteries.
The winners of the Formula 24 races were Richard Lander School, Plymouth High School for Girls, Devonport High School for Boys and Tor Bridge Academy.
Vaughan Curnow from Greenpower helped to establish the event in Cornwall and said “it’s great to see so many schools coming year after year”.
“An impressive 108 primary schools and some 55,000 pupils have taken part in the event over the eleven years that the Greenpower event has been running – not bad going seeing as our original aim was five primary schools and two secondary schools,” he continued.
“We believe it’s the only event like it in the world, engaging primary schools through to university students. Without the kind sponsorship of Siemens, BMW I, IET, Kier, Silverline, Cornwall College and of course Newquay Airport for allowing us to use the venue, this event simply wouldn’t be able to take place. It’s been great to see so many girls here today excited about the races too and totally engaged with engineering.”
Mark Nason, Director of Science & Natural Environment across The Cornwall College Group explained the importance of this type of engagement.
“It’s vital to get kids inspired by STEM subjects and Greenpower gives children the opportunity to get hands-on and get an idea of the potential careers that are out there,” he said.
“Too few are aware of what it means to be a scientist or an engineer for example, and this amazing event enables us to open their eyes in a very practical, hands-on way.”
For more information on the range of Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths courses available at Cornwall College St Austell visit www.cornwall.ac.uk or call 0330 123 2523.