Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

May 17, 2013

Fast learners

Newfane High School class builds electric go kart

BY JOE OLENICK joe.olenick@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — NEWFANE — Brad Duhow spent some time Wednesday zipping around instead of being in class. Actually, it was for class.

The Newfane High School senior was driving around the school’s parking lot in an electric go kart, built by his principles of engineering class. The class has about 20 kids in it and is taught by technology teacher Charlie Voorhees.

Constructing the kart took about two months for the students. The class did the work themselves, which included taking measurements and putting together the brake for example. Slack Performance donated the frame and the parts for the vehicle, Duhow said. 

The kart can get up to about 30 miles an hour and runs on a battery.

”It handles pretty good actually,” Duhow, 18, said.

Hands-on learning is an effective way to learn engineering, the students said. Seeing how the go kart operates allows them to make adjustments easier.

”Now we can ride it, fix it, make it handle better,” said Matt Finch, 18, a senior.

Voorhees said the entire class was engaged in the project, something an educator likes to see. With Wednesday’s test drive, students also got to check out an electric car, built by retired Newfane teacher Bill Neidlinger.

”It’s gotten them into it, makes it more effective,” Voorhees said. “It’s great to see.”

Technology is something all schools are trying to improve on, so to give their students a chance to compete in the 21st century. Education leaders from Washington D.C. on down stress the need for STEM learning - which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

That can be challenging for schools facing economic difficulties, which leads to finding unique ways to teach. Principal Thomas Stack said Newfane is always looking to build up its offerings for students, especially those in the STEM fields.

Plus, activities like building a go kart - or a robot like Newfane’s Circuit Stompers robotics team does - appeals to some students who may not be involved in sports or other extra-curriculars, Stack said.

FIRST Robotics, the organization that oversees high school robotics competitions, said in 2013 there are 875 scholarship opportunities, giving away $16 million total for college.

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.