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10-25-23 — Green Tech Students Put Race Cars in Action

Oct. 25, 2023 ~ The Green Tech Academy at Olathe West High School is one of the only programs in the nation where students can study renewable energy and sustainability in-depth at the high school level. A couple of years ago, two Olathe West students, seniors Liam McKinley and Alex Stone, pushed for the academy to explore opportunities with electric cars. Now, they have their own energy-efficient car that they designed, built and raced in live action!

“If you have a passion, this academy teaches you that you can learn it,” Stone said. “If you don’t know how to do something, we have all these outlets to learn how to do it. Just being around these things and being hands on with something gave us the opportunity to learn like that, so this car is a big deal to us.”

The academy opened at Olathe West in 2017, and what started as a small academy with few resources has grown into what it is today. 

“When we came in, this had just about nothing and there were no resources online. These cars are a very niche subject,” Stone said. “So, we had to go through the whole process of — we have this idea, we have this goal, we know what it should look like, so how do we do it?”

The initial startup cost for the body of the car was $2,500, according to Green Tech Facilitator Andrew Miller. To get this money, he said, the students had to go out and earn it themselves.

“I told the kids that if they’re passionate about it, they would have to fundraise themselves to come up with the money,” Miller said. “They took it upon themselves, and they went to our booster club and asked for the initial body kit. From there, Alex and Liam kind of cold-called companies around the area and they’ve acquired some good funding throughout.”

Since acquiring the funding for the car body, they’ve been able to get sponsors to help with the academy. Those sponsors got their own sticker to put on the car. From there, it was just a matter of putting the car into racing form. While both Stone and McKinley do a lot of hands-on work on the car, Stone handles all the electrical work while McKinley handles a lot of the planning and logistical side. Nicholas Richerson, another senior leader in the academy, also plays a vital role with his work on the car and participation at the races.

“We started most of the club itself,” McKinley said. “There’s a lot that goes into this, especially doing all the logistics within the school district.”

After all the logistics are figured out, then comes the fun part — building the car and getting ready to race. These electric cars are single-driver, lightweight, aerodynamic, high efficiency, electric race cars with three or four wheels of 16" diameter or larger. They are powered by deep cycle lead acid battery packs with a maximum weight of 64 pounds. They can reach speeds up to 30 mph and travel a distance of 25 miles in a one-hour period.

On Oct. 5, the academy made the trip to Hays, Kansas for the annual Kansas Electro Rally race, where they placed fourth. They will be participating in three more races this year, one in Scott City, one in downtown Kansas City, and one in Texas at the end of the year!

This is just one of many cool things happening at the Green Tech Academy. These students are proactive in many ways, whether it’s engaging our community about the environment, traveling to wind farms and solar arrays, building wind turbines, managing energy usage or growing your own food! Read more about the Green Tech Academy..