One Team’s Journey across West Virginia

Written by: Haleigh Fields, WVU Communications Manager 

“Our state [West Virginia] has fewer science, technology, engineering and math graduates than any neighboring state,” said West Virginia University President Gordon Gee in his 2019 State of the University Address in early October. Compared to the surrounding states of Maryland, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, West Virginia ranks the lowest in terms of college graduates with STEM-related degrees.

Part of the mission of the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge is to increase science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) literacy in local communities.

In addition to boosting student interest in STEM and encouraging future consideration in STEM careers, the West Virginia University EcoCAR team also wants to impact as many students as possible within the state.

The WVU EcoCAR team challenged itself to expand its geographic reach throughout the state by visiting the state capital in Charleston, its Eastern Panhandle and the Northern Panhandle. The team began its journey in Charleston, WV where they visited South Charleston High School, Capital High School and George Washington High School. The next stop on the team’s road trip was the Eastern Panhandle with Spring Mills High School and Musselman Middle School.

At all the schools, team members presented the goals of Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions (AVTCs) and the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge, the growth of connected and automated vehicle (CAV) technologies in the industry, and the team’s progress in the competition.

Next, for the high school students their knowledge of what they had just learned was tested in a competitive Kahoot quiz where whoever could answer the quickest and correctly would be crowned the winner and take home a WVU EcoCAR Mobility Challenge water bottle.

To create a better understanding of how CAV technologies work inside a vehicle, those same students were then challenged to participate in an activity where they had to communicate with each other as if they were a connected vehicle with sensors. Students had to navigate themselves through an obstacle course of cones as their fellow classmates acted as incoming traffic, stop signs and wildlife crossing their path.

After the presentation and activity, students were given the opportunity to see the WVU EcoCAR 3 2016 Chevy Camaro. Students learned about how the team transformed the EcoCAR 3 Camaro into a hybrid-electric plug-in and implemented advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and discussed the modifications being made to the 2019 Chevy Blazer.

More than 800 students were able to learn about AVTCs, the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge and West Virginia University as a whole. Many interacted via social media expressing their thanks for the school visits and the opportunity to learn more.

One student wrote via an Instagram message, “Thank you for visiting our class today! I had never heard of EcoCAR before and it was so cool to be able to see the gold Chevy Camaro. I can’t wait to see what you do this year!”

Another one of the teacher’s posted about the team’s visit on Twitter, “A big Thank You to the folks with @WVU_EcoCAR for coming to @SMHS_Official and putting on a great presentation today! I know my class really enjoyed learning about the cars, the competition, and future opportunities to these young scholars.”

The team plans to make its visit to the Northern Panhandle in the Spring.

Reaching out to communities in West Virginia is important to WVU EcoCAR and the team appreciates the opportunity to work directly with schools and organizations. If interested in working with the WVU team please contact our Communications Manager, Haleigh Fields at hlfields@mix.wvu.edu. To follow the WVU EcoCAR Mobility Challenge team’s activities, or to learn more about the upcoming youth outreach events, visit our team page here!