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Greenpower Goblin

Greenpower Goblin

Primary school children from Beeston have built a lightweight roadster...

Greenpower Goblin

Primary school children from Beeston have built a lightweight roadster and are now competing against youngsters from around the country, who have also made their own racing cars.

Their first competition in the nationwide Formula Goblin race series took place this week in Staffordshire and saw a pirate car, a shark, an eagle and an imitation Bentley, among others, take on Round Hill Primary School’s, Green Whizz.

The project challenges children aged 9 to  11 to design and build an electric car with the most eco-friendly body-work and then hone their driving skills in readiness for two race days.

“It was brilliant,” said Daisy, aged 10, after taking part in the Drag Race at Staffordshire Activity Centre. “We did really well and we have learned lots for next time.”

The young engineers spent six months making the car and then testing it in after-school sessions as part of the project that teaches them about electricity, materials, maths and design technology.

They have been supported by researchers and PhD students from the Power Electronics Machine and Control Group at the University of Nottingham, who joined three Round Hill teachers to oversee the development of the vehicle.

Everyone agreed it was a tough assignment and while the car came as part of a kit, it was far “harder than building something from IKEA”.

There were hundreds of different parts and the children admitted that various bits went on back-to-front or upside down to begin with.

“There were a lot of instructions,” said Naomi, 10, but despite the challenges she felt the team had done a very good job and the car was in full working order by the time the children were test driving it around the playground.

“I helped with the brakes,” she said speaking before the first race. “And I’m confident they will work.”

Indeed, they did. The Green Whizz successfully completed all the races on her first outing on Wednesday June 21.

“I enjoyed building it,” said Elisa, 10. “I built the back wheels and they are on properly,” she added proudly.

The car travels at up to 15mph, “but it feels faster than it looks,” said Tom, 11.

The project was initiated by researchers, Dr Liliana de Lillo and [LE1] Dr Lee Empringham, from the University of Nottingham.

They encouraged the school to enter a competition to win a kit car and compete in the nationwide IET/Greenpower Formula Goblin event. Round Hill Primary School entered and won the car worth £1,500.

While the Round Hill team did not make it on to the podium, the initiative has been a great success and there is still another race day at Rockingham on July 7.

“We have been encouraging children at the school, especially girls, to get into engineering,” said Dr de Lillo. “The teachers have always encouraged science activities in the school and so the initiative was eagerly picked up by them.

"The car is lightweight, low cost and massive fun – plus, it’s been a great way to explain the science behind the driving. It has been wonderful to see the excitement with which the children have embraced the project."

Dr de Lillo was delighted that Round Hill developed such a strong female team, which included herself and teachers, Jane Reed, Alexandra Barto-Smith and Jodie Stephenson. Over half of the 47 children participating in the project were also girls.

“Engineering is often seen as a bloke thing,” said Ms Barto-Smith, who is the Key Stage 2 science lead at Round Hill. “But we want to ensure that it is clear that STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is for everyone.”

And Dr Empringham has seen some potential in the team of young engineers. “It has been inspirational,” he said. “They responded to the challenges of designing and building the car brilliantly. It was very intricate. For us the most important thing is to inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists.”

The Formula Goblin Kit Car project is run by the Greenpower Education Trust, a charity which seeks to engage young people in engineering, The competition which provided the Round Hill car was sponsored by The Centre for Power Electronics, part of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Advanced Propulsion Centre, an industry-wide body set up to promote low carbon propulsion.