The Fast Track
The Power Drive Program® has been on the fast track since it debuted during the 1998-99 school year under the leadership of Omaha Public Power District (OPPD). Twelve high schools took part that first year, but the number of participants - and the sophistication of the competitors - has increased each subsequent year.
The Power Drive Program encourages interest in energy-related and automotive-related industries. A light-electric vehicle (LEV) competition, Power Drive does so by bringing a practical focus to students' math, science and/or vocational education. During the course of a school year, students design and construct a safe, energy-efficient electric vehicle that they get to showcase during a series of rallies in the spring. They work in teams, under the direction of instructors who have been trained at Power Drive workshops. Instructors report the program boosts academics, school spirit and community interest and support.
Steve VanRonk, one of the early LEV pioneers who brought the competitions to the U.S. from Australia, helped develop the Power Drive rules and regulations.
In addition to OPPD, program co-sponsors include Nebraska Public Power District, the Nebraska Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Energy Clean Cities Program. The sponsors believe the Power Drive Program is an invaluable way to invest in the future of Nebraska and in the state's energy future. First-time schools receive "starter kits" and the program provides mentors and technical support to the teams when needed. Many of the mentors are OPPD/NPPD employees and retirees, who also volunteer their time to organize and put on the competitions.
Challenge to Participants
The Power Drive challenges the students to do the following:
- Apply classroom lessons to produce a one-person LEV
- Work as a team with other students to build the vehicle from the ground up
- Design and engineer the LEV to roll safely and efficiently
- Use problem-solving skills
- Promote efforts in the community to gain support
- Compete against other schools to see whose vehicle performs best
- Document their efforts
All accredited public and private high schools are eligible to participate it the Power Drive competition. Post-secondary students are eligible to participate in the "exhibition" class. Schools from throughout Nebraska and parts of Iowa have competed.
The Power Drive is designed to be a learning experience for each student. Therefore, students are given as much responsibility as possible in the design, construction, maintenance and operation of the vehicle.
For more information on Power Drive, contact OPPD Corporate Marketing and Communications at 402-636-3751 or write to:
Omaha Public Power District
Corporate Marketing and Communications
444 South 16th Street Mall 3E/EP1
Omaha NE 68102-2247