On a quiet morning in September 2016, a group of high school students rolled a striking orange and blue car onto a racetrack in Seattle. For the past year and a half these students have been working on this Pontiac Firebird shell, turning it into a fully electric drag racing machine. The car, affectionately named “Shock and Awe” was the culmination of a partnership between the Northshore School District’s automotive program at Bothell High School, and the education research organization foundry10. The tires screeched and seconds later the first-of-its-kind dragster had set the world record for its class with an 8.3 second quarter mile.
The story of Shock and Awe began in 2014 during a meeting between the Automotive Technology instructor at Bothell High School, Pat McCue, and researchers at foundry10, an organization that studies learning by supporting innovative educational ideas from students and teachers alike. Bothell’s auto shop is robust and a great learning environment for students who are passionate about cars. The shop combines classes with practical work wherein the local community brings their cars in for minor repairs and detailing by the students.
While this is great experience, students relish the opportunities to work on even more exciting and unique projects like enhancing golf carts and performing electric conversions on older cars. So, we asked the students to design and present a project idea. After some deliberation and voting, we gathered a group of automotive experts to hear the pitch, and Shock and Awe was born.
As an AC-engine electric dragster produced by high school students, Shock and Awe was one-of-a-kind from the start. While foundry10 provided a Pontiac Firebird and funding for the parts, the students planned all of the components, how it would work, and the build timeline. As the students worked on the build, we asked them to reflect on what they were learning in the process.
“The electric motor, it’s the way of the future. We used to not learn that stuff in this class but because of this project now we do.”
“We get to build a car from the ground up. It's two different experiences: learning about it, and then actually doing it.”
“This project is showing me whether or not I am fit for this career, and it's making me realize that I am. It's helping me build my confidence.”
Working on any cutting edge technology comes with a host of challenges and often prompts new forms of thought and learning. We were excited to hear the students reflect on the value of this CTE project both in terms of how they viewed the industry and their future careers.
Now, the dragster is a fixture at Bothell High School, still racing and taking titles. The full story of the car itself, the students who built it, and the teachers, community members, and volunteers that made it all possible is captured in a documentary produced by foundry10. Below is the trailer, and you can find the full film HERE:
If you are interested in connecting with foundry10 or the Bothell HS auto program, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.