Instead of learning manufacturing through computer-based lessons, 33 students at Central Nine Career Center are putting together go-karts from scratch to apply their welding, engineering and logistics skills.

Central Nine advanced manufacturing teacher Sam Hoagland wanted his students to learn through hands-on experiences instead of having the classes look at detached engines through a computer program, he said. Hoagland heard about the Collegiate evGrandPrix at Purdue University, where colleges compete against one another in go-kart racing.

Last year, high school classes were able to participate in their own mini version of the race, Hoagland said. Central Nine was one of three high schools statewide that participated in the project last year, but the racing organization is hoping for about 20 high schools to participate this year, Hoagland said.

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So with a budget of $1,000, Hoagland purchased a used golf cart and extra gears, wheels and controllers for his class to reconfigure into a go-kart, he said.

“In all honesty, I was looking for a project that would get the kids more hands-on,” Hoagland said. “These aren’t kids that want to sit still and be in front of a computer all day.”

The first year’s go-kart ran, but was very slow, Hoagland said.

The repurposed golf cart went faster in reverse than it did driving forward, 18-year-old student Kevin Bohanon said.

“We went and competed, and we were not fast,” Hoagland said.

But this year, the class was able to get grant money and corporate sponsors, giving them enough money to build two go-karts with $7,000 worth of equipment each, he said.

This year, students made a 15-horsepower motor with four car batteries, which can reach up to 55 mph, Hoagland said. By comparison, last year’s go-kart was built with a 3-horsepower motor.

Students have been able to use many different types of skills on the project, now that the go-karts have grown into two higher-quality vehicles. For example, 18-year-old Douglas McCollum was originally taking computer programming classes before deciding to take advanced manufacturing, he said.

Instead of building the go-kart, McCollum realized that he could organize and order the parts needed and keep an inventory of what the class has when making the vehicle, he said.

“It turns out I was really good with the logistics part of the class,” McCollum said. “Honestly, it showed I had a different skill set. When I found out I had skills in logistics, I started to look at what my skill sets were in and looking at what I want to do in school.”

Now McCollum plans on majoring in business in college, applying his knowledge from the manufacturing classes toward his degree, he said.

Every student in the manufacturing class brings a different skill to the project, and building the go-kart from a pile of parts to a working machine appeals to everyone, Hoagland said. Some students worked on cars or dirt bikes when they were younger, while one student took the class because he drives modified stockcars and wants to become a professional racecar driver, he said.

Students are also able to incorporate their academic classes into the project, Hoagland said. For example, when students are writing down gear ratios or trying to determine the energy efficiency, they’re using their math skills beyond just solving a textbook algebra problem, he said.

Hoagland also includes different classes in building the go-kart, such as having graphic design students create a logo and the automobile repair group painting the body in specific colors.

The first go-kart competition will be in March, and the students will take a field trip to Purdue University for their final race in May, Hoagland said.

The requirements for the go-kart

Central Nine Career Center is one of about 20 high schools statewide that is building and racing go-karts. Since last year, high school students could participate in the races, with their own specifications. Here’s a look at what the go-karts are required to include:

– Students build the go-kart from scratch, and basic kits include about $3,400 in parts.

– The go-karts can only be powered through electricity. No gas-powered vehicles are allowed.

– The go-karts cannot drive faster than 50 mph.

– The power system cannot go beyond 48 Volts, and can weigh up to 100 pounds.

Source: EVC Racing qualifications