In a busy, tech-filled classroom at Arthur Terry School, an industrious little 3D printer is beavering away, its nozzle whizzing back and forth as a strange shape emerges beneath. This little piece of plastic, designed by an Arthur Terry student, represents the latest breakthrough in a six-year project that has taken pupils from their school desks to the behind the wheel of a racing car they helped create.
The Green Power scheme is a global project that encourages schools to join the electric vehicle revolution, and Arthur Terry is in pole position locally, as a centre of excellence.
Science teacher Dean Batty, 52, has been the driving force behind the project since he joined the Kittoe Road School in 2012, enthusiastically engineering a team mentality that is passed from year to year.
“There are two levels to the Green Power scheme,” he explained, “there are schools that build their cars entirely from scratch and those that are given a kit car to fine tune and develop.
“It’s run by the Green Power Education Trust, which is a charity. We have two of the kit cars, which are all the same with the same framework, battery and motor, and the challenge for the students is to make modifications that will win races against cars from other schools.”
The small plastic part taking shape under the 3D printer is one of those modifications – a streamlined wing that will hopefully make the Arthur Terry car more aerodynamic.
“The 3D printer is a great example of how the community has supported us,” Dean says, “it was bought by the local Rotary Club, while another firm has given us a trailer to transport our car to race meets. We’re incredibly grateful for all the support we receive.”
Those races take place at iconic tracks across the country in an annual season that runs from March to October, where students not only drive the electric cars – which reach around 30 miles per hour – but also form the pit crews, technical support and management teams.
“The kids will design and make a part and fit it to our test car, and then we will run it to destruction to see if it works. If it does we can then improve it and fit it to our race car,”
– Science teacher Dean Batty
Races last for 90 minutes with teams changing drivers throughout. Crucially, if the car develops a problem during a race, teaching staff are not allowed to intervene, meaning the young pit crews have to take control.
Most recently, Arthur Terry took the podium after racing in this year’s grand final at Silverstone.
Having two cars allows the students to test their ideas and creations on a back-up vehicle, and one of the little electric racers can often be seen zooming around Arthur Terry’s grounds after the school day has ended.
“The kids will design and make a part and fit it to our test car, and then we will run it to destruction to see if it works. If it does we can then improve it and fit it to our race car,” Dean explained.
“The latest change we are working on is for a new motor which has been brought out by Green Power. We could see that there was an area we could exploit to improve its performance. One of our Year 11 lads has designed an adapter to fit a fan, from a desktop computer, that will blow air through the motor which will keep it cool and make it more efficient.
“It’s real engineering, driven by the creativity of the students.”
Since it was launched in 2013, Arthur Terry’s Green Power team have become a real force within the national competition and a trophy cabinet, bursting with cups and awards celebrates that success. But the real measure of the school’s expertise is its place as a centre of excellence, helping other schools get involved.
“We were the first school to become a centre of excellence,” Dean said. “We have been working very closely with Northern House, a special school in Chelmsley Wood, who have just started with a kit car like ours and our kids have been amazing working with them
“There is also a Green Power Primary School competition, using much smaller kit cars, and young experts from Arthur Terry helped Mere Green Primary School pupils build their vehicles to take part. We’re also involved in helping Slade Primary School – there’s a lot of collaboration that goes on within the Arthur Terry Learning Partnership.
So, what do the pupils get out of their time on the Arthur Terry race team?
“Primarily it’s aimed at inspiring future engineers, but it goes way beyond that,” Dean said, “it develops self-confidence, teamwork, finance, business skills, communication – all kinds of things.
“I can honestly say that I could tell a story about every student who has been on the team – about how it changed their school experience.”