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Mataaho hosts electric car competition

  • EV

The canopy area in front of Unitec’s new trades training building, Mataaho, turned into pit lane one Saturday in October, as twelve teams from five Auckland secondary schools prepped their electric powered vehicles to compete in the Auckland regional finals of EVolocity, an electric vehicle competition.

Footage of the event is available here.

Each team of Year 11-13 students had been given an electric vehicle starter kit with 10 items ranging from a motor mount to the all-important brake handles plus two 12V high density gel batteries.  Teams used this kit to design and construct a vehicle, earning extra points for maximising the amount of recycled materials used and for creating a new technology to improve the driving and control of their vehicle, such as a speedometer.  In addition to the reconditioned bicycle tyres and hundreds of cable ties, some of the designs featured more unusual componentry such as carbon fibre offcuts, a welded aluminium frame and speakers wired to a smartphone to play car sounds.

The teams were also scored on the creativity of their 30-second sales pitch for social media. 

Here’s the winner from Henderson High School. 

Unitec is a sponsor of the EVolocity programme that aims to grow enrolments in the STEM studies of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics at a time when New Zealand is facing an acute shortage of engineering skills.  

Melanie Ooi, Head of the Engineering Practice Pathway said: “We want our students to have the skills for the jobs of tomorrow so that they can be part of an enterprising New Zealand workforce.”

Unitec lecturers in the Vehicle Systems and Electrical Engineering Systems pathways worked together on this project, facilitating a series of four weekend BUILD days where the students were taught the principles of vehicle design and electrical driving systems, such as stability, manoeuvrability and performance, and could bring work-in-progress on their vehicles along for minor work.   

Christo Potgieter, head of the vehicle systems pathway, said: “Students could enhance their understanding of vehicles and fabrication, and get some great personal coaching and advice from our skilled Unitec Lecturers.” 

On competition day itself, the teams had to take their vehicles through a series of vehicle exercises demonstrating acceleration, stopping, steering and overall performance on the bike path and driveway to Mataaho. Lecturers were on hand to advise students on any possible last minute snags.  

Christo and Melanie see events like this as helping to change the perception of trades by demonstrating the highly technical skillset that’s needed for a successful trades career.  “We’re delighted that we could showcase the great facilities and staff at Unitec and we hope that many of the students will go on to study either engineering or vehicle systems,” said Melanie.

This was the first time the event has been held in Auckland.  The five high schools participating were: Henderson High School, Howick College, Long Bay College, Mahurangi College and Massey High School.  Winners go on to compete in the National Finals being held in Christchurch in December.

Thanks to lecturers Wayne Holmes, Bruce Hilliard, Gerald Ryan, Han (Ashley) Yan who worked directly with the teams leading up to competition day, the Ponsonby Police for loaning two officers and their laser speed gun and to Chris Mitchell, Mataaho Operations Manager, for logistics on the day including ensuring health and safety compliance. 


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