NEAT Rally – November, 2016

The EV time had a great time down at the North Carolina Automotive Research Institute earlier this month. We had the opportunity to do things such as the safety event, autocross, and quiz bowl. The team learned much more about how the Lithium Ion batteries react during  the autocross and gained some new insights in charging the batteries.

 

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Year in Review, 2015-16

It has been quite an amazing year for the Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School Electric Vehicle team. Team membership has gone up, a lot of projects have been completed, and there are big plans for the future.

Over the summer of 2015, the team installed the Orion battery management system in the Datsun 240Z. This system was incredibly helpful to the team all year and will continue to be helpful as it provides a way of monitoring all the batteries at once and protecting them from damage during racing. Also over the summer, the team’s website was created and has been a helpful tool for documenting our progress all year.

During the Fall and Winter, the team worked on increasing team membership by recruiting at home schools and presenting to all of the juniors during their physics classes. We got a lot of work done on the Porsche, most of which was cosmetic. The team fixed the switch for the reverse lights and beeper which had broken off, attached covers for the steering column and fuse block, put in a new ignition, and worked on charging lithium ion batteries to be put in the Porsche when the time came to convert it. The team received a storage shed early on and we quickly filled it up and used it for storing all of the things that had previously been kept in the mail truck. As for events, the team participated in the EV Neat Rally at NCCAR from October 9th through the 11th. The team also showed the Porsche in the Waynesboro Christmas Parade. During school, we had meetings with some of the team members during third block independent work time to plan out goals for the near and distant future. On the Datsun, the team added about 36V to the back and put in David Waterman’s pack of batteries from his lawnmower that he donates to us every year. Every Fall, Romanian exchange students come to the Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School; this year, one of our team members brought her exchange student to a meeting to show her our electric vehicle program.

Spring has been an exceptionally busy time for the EV team. We started the new year off with an outreach event with the RAW Learning Private School where team members gave presentations to younger students about the EV Challenge, our cars, and even about the solar panel that the Governor’s School received from Dominion. We began the process of converting the Porsche from lead acid batteries to lithium ion batteries by taking out all of the old batteries, configuring how the new batteries would fit in the Porsche, creating wiring diagrams, and installing racks for the batteries. Members of the team worked with Dish Network on getting a donation for the EV program. A proposal was submitted for funding ideas on many small projects; however, Dish was looking more for one big project to put their money towards rather than many smaller things. The team took the Datsun to the EV Spring Thaw Event at NCCAR in the middle of March. As for work done on the Datsun this Spring, a passenger seat has been put in, 12 cells have been added to the front to bring the car’s overall voltage up to around 176V, and a lot of progress has been made with the battery management system including setting safety features and analyzing data collected from it. The team showed off both the Datsun and the Porsche at the SVGS Open House on March 24 and also participated in the Herald Miller Invitational at NCCAR, an event created to replace the postponed EV Challenge. At the Herald Miller Invitational, the team was interviewed by a crew from an educational website called itsourair.org which will be creating an episode about electric vehicles and the cool things we do at EV to be shown in classrooms all across North Carolina.

An ongoing project with the team is that we are working on installing a touchscreen in the Datsun that we can use to monitor our batteries while we are racing.

Some overall things worth mentioning include that the senior members of the team collectively earned 850 hours. Team membership has increased from 2 members last year to 8 members this year. Also, on the school initiative forms, a system of scoring teams used by the EV Challenge based on categories relating to public relations, the team scored 162 points, significantly higher than what we scored last year.

The team’s plans for the near future as well as next year include taking one of the cars to the SVGS Awards Picnic, getting tires donated for the Porsche, finishing converting the Porsche to lithium ion batteries, continuing to expand team membership, continuing to work with Dominion on getting a grant for an EV charging station, continuing to expand team membership, getting some type of speedometer function for the Datsun, and upgrading the motors/controllers in both of the cars.

The EV Team was Mentioned in The Daily Herald!

The SVGS EV team was mentioned in The Daily Herald, a newspaper serving the Roanoke Valley and Lake Gaston area of North Carolina, for being part of the Herald Miller Invitational (to read more about the HMI, read our main post: https://svgsev.wordpress.com/2016/04/16/the-herald-miller-invitational/). The article was a print exclusive so it has been transcribed below:

Northampton, Virginia students put car work to test

Article by Brian Clark, bclark@rrdailyherald.com

GARYSBURG – It was clear Thursday Roanoke Rapids Graded School District Interim Superintendent John Parker was impressed standing outside the North Carolina Center for Automotive Research.

The Garysburg facility played host to high school students from three North Carolina schools and one from Virginia as part of an electric vehicle, or EV, competition.

Students from Northampton County High School, as well as from West Wilkes High School in Ronda; Topsail High School; and Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School in Fishersville, Va., came together for a friendly competition.

Parker praised the efforts of the students and their teachers, noting he’s appreciative of ways of learning that go beyond the classroom.

“We need to bring out students’ intellect and abilities in ways other than bubbling in a multiple-choice answer sheet,” Parker said.

The impromptu gathering came together after a previously scheduled competition in Raleigh was postponed until later this fall, leaving seniors who had been working on these cars for the entire school year with no outlet to share their hard work. Chris Tolbert, EV club organizer for West Wilkes High School, approached NCCAR about using the facility for the gathering.

NCCAR Operations Manager Sam True wasn’t able to arrange a weekend event, but secured time for the kids to put their cars through their paces Thursday and today.

“In general, it’s a lot of fun,” True said. “They’re (the kids) smart, they like to be challenged. It’s one of my favorite programs and it’s something I’ve been doing for six years. I just enjoy it.”

The kids in attendance were eager to show off their work. A group of students from Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School had the oldest car at the event: A 1970 Datsun 240Z. The car had been gutted of its engine and other components necessary for a gasoline engine and rebuilt by students over several years as part of EV club projects, according to Eric Munro, one of the students from Virginia.

The group had recently added additional batteries to their car in hopes of giving it greater speed and range. Thursday was their first outing with the new modifications.

“We’re hoping the increase in power outweighs the additional weight,” said Munro.

In addition to Parker and Davis, the event brought Doug Miller, executive director of Auxiliary Services for Northampton County Schools, who came by to speak with the students.

Also there for the day was Harold Miller, a retired teacher from Northampton High School. He was one of the first organizers of an electric car program in the Roanoke Valley before his retirement in 1999.

All four were in agreement programs such as EV clubs are an invaluable tool when it comes to education children. In EV clubs, students are often left to direct the course of their work and then carry out their plans for the vehicles. They are further learning by being hands-on with their work instead of studying theory from a textbook, they noted.

“Anytime you can get a kid to use their hands and not sit there at a desk working, they’re going to learn it,” RRGSD Director of Student Services Tom Davis said.

The Herald Miller Invitational

The Herald Miller Invitational, a new event created by multiple team mentors to replace the postponed EV Challenge so that the teams had a year-end event to showcase all their hard work, took place April 14-15 at NCCAR. The SVGS EV team met early Thursday morning to load up the car and head down to North Carolina. We arrived with the Datsun around 8:45 and began unloading the car and talking to other team members about their cars and STEM cycles.

A morning meeting took place around 10 to plan out the activities that would take place at the event, taking into consideration what each team wanted to do. After the morning meeting, we broke into groups that mixed members of different teams together to do student-lead inspections of the vehicles. These inspections involved examining the safety, creativity, and ingenuity of the cars to give teams scores out of 200. The Datsun received an impressive score of 192/200.

The SVGS team then set up an autocross course and timing equipment for all of the teams to use. All members of our team drove the Datsun impressively well, getting the best times of the day on the course. Ben got the top two times, Eric got the 3rd and 4th best times, and Emily got the 5th best time. At the end of the day, we set up our car to charge overnight so that we would be ready to continue racing on Friday.

Throughout the day, a reporter from a local newspaper called The Daily Herald interviewed teams and gathered information about the event. To read the article, see our post announcing the mentioning here: https://svgsev.wordpress.com/2016/04/16/the-ev-team-was-mentioned-in-the-daily-herald/.

On Friday morning, Eric, Ben, and Byron headed to the main research building to participate in a troubleshooting event while Emily stayed with the car to monitor charging. The troubleshooting event was a class and practice session for teams to use troubleshooting boards to find and isolate problems within circuits.

After the troubleshooting class, all of the teams headed down to the track to participate in an altered autocross course from Thursday. The Datsun performed well again but the best times were earned by West Wilkes High School’s Miata, an incredible car that performed really well. To read more about the WWHS team and their car, check out their website [http://wwhsev.weebly.com/whats-going-on]. To read about Topsail’s team, a great team that brought two cars and a STEM cycle to the event, go to their website [http://www.kickngas.org/].

Throughout the day on Friday, a crew from itsourair.org followed the teams around to learn more about the program, do filmed interviews with members of the team, and get shots of the cars in action. itsourair.org works to put together educational videos and curriculum to be used for education in classrooms all over North Carolina. When the footage is put on their website, we will put up an announcement with a link to their footage from the event.

The team made it home late Friday night and unloaded the car. Overall, the Herald Miller Invitational was a great event and each member of the team had an incredible time. We can’t wait to get together with all of the teams that attended again in the Fall at the EV Challenge.

This Month in EV, March 2016

March has been an exciting month for the electric vehicle team! The team took a trip down to NCCAR in North Carolina to participate in the Spring Thaw Event and also showcased the cars to the community at the Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School Open House. The article for the Spring Thaw Event can be seen here:¬†https://svgsev.wordpress.com/2016/03/17/ev-spring-thaw-event-2016/ and the article for the SVGS Open House is available here: https://svgsev.wordpress.com/2016/03/27/ev-team-at-the-svgs-open-house/.

Aside from the big events that the team has been participating in, the team has been working on fixing the batteries in the Datsun after the overheating problem that was faced at NCCAR. The solution to this problem was to remove the cover that used to be over the main pack of batteries because it held in heat. We will also be checking the temperature more often during racing to determine if further action needs to be taken before problems becomes too serious.

After the Spring Thaw Event, the seat belt for the passenger seat in the Datsun had to be fixed because it came loose. It was an easy fix that only took one meeting to complete.

A main focus of the team has been collecting and analyzing data from the battery management system while the car is running. We have experimented with and decided on shut off values for current, voltage, and temperature to prevent drivers from running the batteries past dangerous points. In addition to creating these shut off points, team members installed a buzzer to warn the driver when the lowest cell drops below 1.5 volts.

EV Team at the SVGS Open House

On March 24, 2016, the EV team moved their cars over to the Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School to show them off to the community at the SVGS Open House. The Open House is an event that gives students the opportunity to show off all of the amazing work they do at the Governor’s School to parents and members of the community. For more information on the Open House as a whole, check out this article on the Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School’s website: https://svgsstudentnews.wordpress.com/2016/03/25/photos-from-open-house-2016/. The EV team had a computer set up with a slideshow of pictures showing what the team has done throughout the year as well as an informative poster about the team’s two cars. Both the Datsun and the Porsche were on display as team mentor, Byron Humphries, stood by to answer any inquiries the public had about our program. Student team members of the program were also present to talk about our meetings and events to raise awareness for the incredible program.

EV Spring Thaw Event 2016

The EV team headed to Garysburg, North Carolina this past weekend to participate in NCCAR’s Spring Thaw Event. The event was designed to be an opportunity for teams to get practice in events such as autocross and acceleration. Half the team left for the event around 6:30 PM Thursday night with the Datsun so that they could get to the track early the next morning. The rest of the team joined up at NCCAR around 4:30 on Friday. The Porsche did not join the team on this trip as it is still in the process of being converted from lead acid to lithium ion batteries.

On Friday, the team designed and set up an autocross course for all of the teams to practice on. The Datsun ran well, averaging times around a minute and twenty-five seconds on a relatively long course that included a slalom, chicago box, and 360. In the evening, the batteries started to weaken and when the team checked them they were reaching dangerous temperatures of around 130 degrees Fahrenheit and voltages on about 7 of them had dropped to 0, making them useless.

To handle this tense and upsetting situation, members of the team pulled an all-nighter, working on cooling the batteries, taking out the worn down packs, salvaging batteries, and wiring new packs in. The team also charged the main pack of batteries overnight so that the car could hopefully race again in the morning.

On Saturday, the team spent the morning finishing up the Datsun and getting it to run again. Overall, the voltage dropped from 144V to about 130V with the removal of 4 cells. The team continued to practice on the autocross course throughout the morning, stopping every couple of run throughs to check on how the batteries were holding up both in relation to charge and temperature. The team ended the event with a debriefing of how it went and what needs to be done in the future to prepare for the EV Challenge in April.

Overall, the weekend was a great experience for everyone on the team. Every body got a chance to drive, giving some new members the opportunity to drive the car for the first time. We also had a passenger seat which gave people the opportunity to ride along as the car dodged (and sometimes hit) cones. The team did a great job of keeping positive attitudes in times of stress and hardship when the discovery was made that the batteries had been damaged and was able to put all the things they’ve learned this year to work under a large amount of pressure. The team made connections with members of other teams, talked with people connected to NCCAR, and even got to see a solar powered car brought to the event by a college team.

The team will eagerly continue working on bettering their cars for the EV Challenge in Raleigh, North Carolina in April with hopes of bringing a powerful Datsun and a lithium ion-powered Porsche.

This Month in EV, February 2016

Looking back on the goals the team set in January (finish charging the Datsun, participate in more outreach opportunities, get tires donated, get another pair of racing seats donated, and finish converting the Porsche from lead acid to lithium ion batteries), February has been a very productive and successful month. The team has started and accomplished quite a few of the set goals and we have plans for the ones that we haven’t gotten around to yet.

The Datsun is charged up to the best of our abilities and ready to race in the Spring Thaw competition at NCCAR in March. Also, a passenger seat is in the process of being installed in the Datsun (hopefully in time for the competition). Once the seat is in place, we hope to have an outreach event that will allow people to ride in our electric car and get to learn a little bit more about EV. The Porsche is well on its way to being on lithium ion batteries. After a little bit of brainstorming, a layout has been configured for the newer, smaller batteries as well as a wiring diagram. All that’s left is putting the batteries into the newly made racks, wiring them up, and getting the controller put back in place. That being said, it does not look like the Porsche will be ready in time to participate in the Spring Thaw event. Rather, the new and improved Porsche will be unveiled at the EV Challenge in April.

Throughout the course of this month, a team member and an instructor have been in contact with Dish Network and have worked out a grant for the team. This money will be going towards the costs of competitions and will help the team out a lot. Thanks Dish Network!

Next month, the team will be traveling to North Carolina to participate in the Spring Thaw Event. Goals for March include: finish the Porsche conversion, give rides in the Datsun, get one more seat for the Porsche, and get new tires donated for the Porsche. Also in March, the Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School will be having it’s annual STEM Open House and the team will have the cars on display with students to talk about the program and bring awareness to the community.

This Month in EV, January 2016

January has been a pretty busy month for the EV team. Early on, planning was under way through a long series of emails for an outreach opportunity to share what the SVGS EV team is and what we do with some members of the community. That event ended up being a big success. On January 20th, some students from Staunton’s RAW Learning Private School visited the Governor’s School to run through some stations and activities led by members of the EV team. Mr. Daw gave a presentation on what the EV Challenge is and what the competition is like along with a description of the STEM Cycle program. Byron and Ben showed off both the Datsun and the Porsche, allowing the kids to see the cars up close and hear more about how they work and what we do as a team at meetings. Emily led an introductory level class to solar energy that included a brief video, a look at the solar panel that SVGS recently got, and some interactive games focusing on renewable energy.

In addition to focusing on outreach, the team has been putting a lot of effort towards working out charging the Datsun. We’ve hit some bumps along the way with some straggling cells and some cells that seem to be reaching much higher voltages that others. Our original hopes were that the BMS would prevent this but we are finding ourselves having to go in an charge some cells individually. Another thing in the works for the Datsun is the fabrication of a controller fan cover to keep small objects from falling in and jamming the fan while the car is being worked on.

The team has also been working towards accomplishing the goal of getting new tires donated for the Porsche 911 so that we can race it safely at the upcoming EV Challenge. We have taken the lead acid batteries out of the car and are working on planning the layout of the lithium ion batteries.

Some goals for the team in the rest of January and through February include: finish charging the Datsun, participate in more outreach opportunities, get the Porsche tires donated, get another pair of racing seats donated so that people can ride in the cars, and finish converting the Porsche from lead acid to lithium ion batteries. We’ve got a lot ahead of us but the progress we’ve made so far this year has the team excited for what’s to come.

 

This Week in EV 11/29 – 12/5

The past few weeks have not gotten summaries because they have all been pretty similar. We spent a lot of time charging batteries to prepare for the conversion of our Porsche and working on wiring and figuring out the Orion battery management system. However, this week was a rather exciting one as we finished charging all of the batteries and got the Datsun’s battery management system to work while charging the battery pack.

On Sunday, the team prepared to participate in the Staunton Christmas Parade by creating posters, a music playlist, and doing some final touches on the cars.

On Monday, the weather was gloomy (rainy and cold) so the team decided it would be best for the cars if we did not participate. There was not a very big crowd at the parade in the rain so we believe this was a good decision.

On Wednesday, the team met from 6-9 and worked on charging the Datsun while observing the battery management system’s data as it balanced the pack of batteries for even charging. This was a very exciting accomplishment as it was what we had been working towards for so long. We were able to charge up our batteries to about 3.3 V each and the overall pack voltage to around 150 V. We recorded the data from the BMS and hope to graph it soon to look for trends and patterns that could be helpful to us in the future.

On Thursday, the team met during part of governors school to plan out the upcoming month and set goals for what needs to get done in order to stay on track for the upcoming Spring competition in North Carolina.

On Saturday, the EV team participated in the Waynesboro Christmas Parade where we spread community awareness about us and the Shenandoah Valley Governors School. We were able to drive the Porsche all the way through the parade without any problems.

Another thing that happened recently was that the team was mentioned on the Shenandoah Valley Governor School’s website for attending the NEAT Ralley in North Carolina in October. To read more about that, check out this link: https://svgsstudentnews.wordpress.com/2015/12/01/svgs-month-in-review-october-november-2015-experiences-and-community/

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