excitement wore off, many of them were pessimistic about their ability to actually build the vehicle from the ground up. “None of us knew what we were doing,” said Carlos C., a student in the class.
“When we first got the car, everything was scrambled everywhere, and no one knew what piece was what,” said Arthur L., another student. “We talked it over and decided we needed to first identify the pieces and visualize them working together, and that helped the project come together and made it easier to assemble it.”
The course wasn’t easy, and the first time they turned the key the car wouldn’t start. The students went through a troubleshooting process – an important step in teaching them how to learn from failure – and eventually the car did start. Teamwork is another important skill practiced in the class. “Organization and good communication were really important to having good teamwork,” said Carlos. His classmate Arthur added, “I wasn’t interested in electrical work at first, but there was a kid who was and we worked together in a way where I helped him with the mechanical work and he helped me with the electrical; it was good to work together.”
Ron also asked his students to think about their environmental impacts. “We had homework assignments as we built the car, looking at the differences between an electric car and a normal gasoline car to see which was better for the environment,” said Carlos, “Many argued that an electric vehicle is bad because of all the chemicals it takes to make a battery, but in the end it would not pollute at all. We compared that with having a car that runs on gas and pollutes the environment every time. I think that was really helpful to learn.”
As a testament to the kids’ enthusiasm, Ron had to practically chase the boys out of class at the end of each period, which happened to be right before lunch. For the first time ever, rather than bolting for the door before the bell, students would stay up to 10 minutes into the lunch break – they were so engaged, they didn’t want to stop.
During a celebratory ride with one of his students at the end of the school year, Ron remembers looking over to see his satisfied, happy smile. When he asked what he was smiling about, the student responded, “I can’t believe I built this car.”