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Author: The Greenpower Team
The past 12 months have been tricky for most, and the education sector certainly wasn’t exempt from the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. For participating teams in the Greenpower challenge, nationwide lockdowns and closure of schools created a number of obstacles – mainly, that it prevented hard-working, passionate young people across the country from getting together and working on their electric race cars. However, a number of teams refused to let the adverse conditions prevent them from doing what they loved, and were even able to thrive while working under the restrictions. This was certainly the outlook taken by the team from the Sylvia Beaufoy Centre.
The Sylvia Beaufoy Centre team at the Greenpower event at Goodwood in October 2020
Based in the rural town of Petworth, West Sussex, less than 12 miles from Greenpower HQ, the Sylvia Beaufoy Centre offers a safe meeting place and a base for youth work in the area, providing opportunities for young people regardless of their economic background, gender or ethnicity.
The Sylvia Beaufoy Centre first got involved with Greenpower back in 2014, creating and entering a kit car in the F24 category, before building a second kit car in 2016. From their first taste of the challenge, the centre found the project to be highly beneficial to the young people who participated and have been taking part ever since. The centre’s lead youth worker, Dan Sneller, commented:
“I’ve been very encouraged to see how working with young people on a very practical hands-on task of designing, building and racing an electric car can foster a quality of trust and relationship that allows me to support them around deep, personal issues such as family bereavement, anxiety and mental health.”
The 2020 season was already going to be slightly different for the Sylvia Beaufoy Centre team, as in late 2019 they started constructing its first scratch car with a view to race it the following year.
However, the coronavirus lockdown and subsequent restrictions seemingly thwarted the team’s chances of finishing, and then running, its new F24 car. Not to be discouraged during this period, the team found innovative ways to continue working on the Greenpower project, while staying safe in the midst of a global pandemic.
The group started by using a variety of online tools to virtually meet and communicate, using this time to discuss the design of the car and how the team would now function. This continued until small bubbles were permitted to form, at which point the building immediately re-started in the COVID-secure youth club. The whole team was raring to get back to work on the practical aspect of the project.
The month of July brought excitement, as the team was permitted to meet and work on the car as a group for the first time in almost four months. The build of its first-ever scratch car was completed, and its members even managed to take it testing to hone their skills and iron out any mechanical faults.
With its first race meeting delayed until the 11th of October at Goodwood Motor Circuit, the Sylvia Beaufoy crew used the extra time before the start of the season to install live telemetry in the cars. This addition allowed the pit crew to monitor the amperage, voltage, battery and motor temperature, motor and wheel RPM, and the GPS location of the car.
Although later than originally planned, the team was able to witness its months of hard work and dedication pay off. Sylvia Beaufoy entered both of the cars into the F24 category at Goodwood, and even managed to finish in fourth position.
The driver of one of the cars at the Goodwood event (aged 12) certainly enjoyed the 2020 season, despite the obstacles placed in her team’s way.
“I have been a part of the Greenpower team for two years now and I love it. We started building this car at the end of 2019, but then COVID-19 hit and we had to stop. But all was not lost; when the first lockdown was lifted, a very dedicated part of our team worked to build the car in time for August.
“All we needed now was a race day. It looked like it wasn’t going to happen, then suddenly we had the news from our youth workers that we were going to be racing at Goodwood! THE BEST NEWS EVER! The day came and we were all so nervous as we had changed the team around a lot, and worked so hard to make everything better than the year before. I started one of the races and impressed myself at how quick I was! We finished the day in fourth place out of the F24 cars which made us all so happy.”
The team’s Head Engineer, aged 16 and a four-year veteran of the Greenpower project, added:
“I had been asking our youth workers for year to build a scratch car and I was very excited to see my drawings come to life.
We had just received the pre-cut parts that we had checked with a prototype prior, when COVID-19 struck and all work stopped for 3 months. When we were allowed, I started working with two of the youth workers to put together the car, along with two other members from the team as and when they could.
It was such a good feeling to see the car move for the first time in testing, but even better when we saw it race against other cars and realised just how good it was!
Now I am too old to be a part of this team, but I am going to become a junior leader to support the team and the new members for the 2021 season.”
For the young people of the Sylvia Beaufoy Centre, the Greenpower project provided a positive outlet for their energy, as well as a sense of community that could have so easily been lost while the lockdown was in effect. It also, of course, developed the group of 11 to 16-year-old's understanding of STEM subjects through practical learning, giving them valuable skills for both their education and future employment prospects.
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