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Davie High students building solar racing vehicle

By Will Marrs

Davie High Instructor

This year Davie County High School begins a cross-curricular project never attempted at the North Carolina high school level.

Both Davie High Career and Technical Education and Davie High STEM Center are the partner teams set to accomplish a goal to keep the War Eagles at the forefront of education’s capability.

The project began as a lunchtime conversation that resonated with multiple teachers at Davie High. Project Sunburn, as appropriately named, is a mission to design, build, and ultimately compete a solar-powered race vehicle, but most importantly to be the first high school program in NC to accomplish this feat.

With a year’s worth of research, multiple instructors have worked to bring this opportunity to fruition. The short-term goal is to successfully race a solar powered vehicle, with the long-term goal of having Davie High as the home track for the first high school sanctioned race.

The project culminates a year of teacher-led research and is backed by collegiate level programs such as Cape Fear Community College and Appalachian State at the university level. Both are trying to  grow solar programs into the secondary education environment.

Student initiative is the focus in numerous areas of the build such as marketing, social media, fabrication, engineering, design, and electronics – only with facilitation from instructors. The soul focus is concurrent learning with teacher and student involved in the process with the welcoming of failures and the learning that directly proceeds from that.

Students are at the forefront of deciding the direction of the War Eagle Motorsports club, creating something they are proud of being a part of.

Allie Williams, club secretary and project lead in marketing and social media says: “I’m excited for the finished product of the car, but I’m most excited about the teamwork and the collaborative work that’s going into it.”

Collin Ferebee, earth and environmental science teacher and project advisor, said: “This is a grassroots organization. A significant portion of our leadership team behind this project are DCHS alumni (Mr. Marrs, Mr. James, Ms. Freeman, Mr. Young and Mr. Ferebee). We all have our individual reasons for coming home to teach at Davie, but we all agree that providing students with opportunities we never had is crucial.

“While we had many noteworthy teachers at Davie, we want to help redefine what authentic learning is and help students find the bridge between classroom academics and real-world application.”

Ferebee now gets to combine his love of automotive racing with his classroom mission to investigate and integrate renewable energy sources into a variety of applications.

The project is in the initial design phase. Excitement remains high in the student groups as each sector in charge of specific tasks have classified themselves with code names such as “The Zipties” (The engineering group), or “S.P.F. 100” (Sole Provider of Funds) who is in charge of marketing.

Students are using technologies such as 3D modeling software to construct a digital model of a purchased go-kart chassis that will serve as the bones of the vehicle and as a digital platform to make soft changes.

Other groups have banded together to manage other aspects such as the solar and electrical component, as well as the fabrication side of the vehicle.  Team members are meeting once or more per week with their respective instructors alongside students officers and representatives who decide and operate meeting schedules.

More than 30 members of War Eagle Motorsports spanning freshmen through senior, male and female, have banded to tackle their chosen niche of the project.

Jackson Clark, a member of the engineering group, speaks to the community that the project has created. “The coolest thing about Project Sunburn is that you have lots of different people, each with unique talents, working together to build a car. Some people are gifted in engineering, others in fabrication, and others in marketing, but we are all working together towards a goal.”

The project is motivated by the opportunities to gather cross-curricular and community partnership.

“We greatly appreciate the community support that we have received thus far,” Marrs said. “We are continuing to market our project within new areas and we greatly welcome any feedback and resources as we continue to grow this venture.”

Follow their journey on Project Sunburn on Instagram and Facebook, or reach out to DCHSunburn@gmail.com.