The fourth annual pairing of Richmond High School students with technical mentors to design, construct and race electric-powered bicycles has grown in participation from 20 students in 2012 to 50 this year.
Starting in February, the students split up into eight teams, each team guided by a technical mentor, and met weekly after school for three months, in order to design, procure parts, construct and test their e-bikes. The so-called E-bike Challenge, which is funded primarily by Chevron Richmond, culminated Monday with a competition on the Richmond High track.
As in past years, the E-bike Challenge “went very nicely,” but this time a two-time defending champion was unseated, said Cortis Cooper, the Chevron Energy Technology Co. fellow who started the program.
The final result was less important than the experience. The competition allows Richmond High students to learn mechanical and electrical skills that can lead to exciting and lucrative careers. Teams must go through the real-life process of engineering design, where they identify and evaluate alternative plans, select a preferred design within a budget of $600, and convince “the man with the money” to fund them.
During the design process, students have to take into account such metrics as speed, braking ability, economics, longevity, weight and even attractiveness of their e-bikes. Three weeks into the program, they present their proposed designs to judges, including where they plan to purchase parts.
Along with Chevron funding, this year’s running of the E-bike Challenge also received contributions from Kaiser Permanente and Berkshire Hathaway Inc.