Kicking Off the Year, 2016-2017

The Electric Vehicle team started the year early, with the first meeting of the new school year on Sunday, August 14. We’re proud to welcome new members Ryan Marx, Nolan Vess, Ethan Choate, Eric McKenzie, Parker Turnage, and Josh Bryant.  Since the first meeting of the year we’ve installed a new auxiliary battery pack in the Datsun, done body work such as fixing the side view mirrors, worked on reparing the Datsun’s bumper, and ambitious new members have even fixed the outside door handles. A cataloguing system for all the team’s batteries has also been constructed, with cloud updating capabilities. DSC_0386.JPG

The EV team put on a good showing at the SVGS STEM open house, showing new SVGS parents and students both the Porsche and Datsun. We were happy to tell new students all about the benefits and experience gained being part of the EV team.

An exciting new addition to the Datsun is the Raspberry Pi tablet PC installed in the Datsun’s dashboard, which will allow for easier and on the go data collection from the Orion BMS system. The Pi was installed at the end of last year by team member Ben Lawn as his senior project, however our first field run with the Pi will be at our first event at the end of September.

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With our very first event of the year being on September 30th down at the North Carolina Automotive Research Institute, the team is working quickly in order to prepare the Datsun for some racing! David Waterman has generously donated his electric lawnmower to the EV Team, which we’ve extracted the BMS from and placed in the Datsun. Weighing in at about 200 lbs, the team had to do a little engineering in order to safely transport the BMS pack into the Datsun correctly, utilizing some metal pipes and rope. The team aims to wire the BMS into the Datsun and construct a 172 volt battery grid in time for our first event.

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Here’s to a successful and fun year for the Shenandoah Valley Electric Vehicle Team!

 

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The Datsun 240Z at the SVGS Awards Picnic

The team traveled to the Frontier Culture Museum with the Datsun on May 16 for the SVGS Awards Picnic. At the picnic, team members were able to show off the car to fellow students and their family members. Alongside the Datsun, the Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School’s robotics team’s robot made an appearance as members of the robotics team shared information about their competitive and successful season. At the picnic, senior team members Ben and Emily received the awards for Best Electric Vehicle Team Members.

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.

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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This Week in EV 9/20 – 9/26

On Sunday, the team met from 6-9. We had a big turnout with new members and we were able to show them around the shop, give them safety lessons, and teach them about the cars. The team traveled to David Waterman’s (one of our sponsors) house to pick the battery pack that he loans to us every year for our Datsun 240Z. We got to look over his electric lawnmower, one of the fastest in the world, and pick up some scrap metal for various projects. When we returned to our shop we placed the 200 lbs pack in the back of the Datsun and worked on coming up with a wiring design to implement at the next meeting.

On Wednesday, the team met from 6-9. We worked on charging batteries for the Porsche, charging batteries for the Datsun, and filing through documentation on the Porsche. The senior members drew up new wiring diagrams and schematics for the Datsun so that new members could understand the wiring of the cars.

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