The students at Calera High School’s pre-engineering took the role of a modern-day Henry Ford as they developed affordable transportation for the needy masses around the world. Not only were the students learning valuable Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills, but they learned community service as they gave of their time and talents to groups that they will probably never meet. Through this project, these students learned they could radically change the lives of people around the world. This project presented affordable transportation that allows goods and services to be brought to and from the marketplace. This project has far exceeded expectations, for not only did the students develop a viable vehicle, but they made it in kit form utilizing simple materials that are found locally around the world. The students further enhanced their project by creating a set of assembly instructions which they had translated into Spanish, French and Swahili. The scope of the project was to develop (invent) a kit vehicle that could be shipped to third world countries allowing a national to build their own vehicle using nothing more than simple hand tools.
Students took their vehicles to a collegiate competition in Indianapolis, sponsored by the Institute for Affordable Transportation (IAT). The Institute for Affordable Transportation’s primary mission is to develop an inexpensive vehicle that can be marketed in developing countries. Through this project the students learned many skills such as: STEM teamwork, mechanics, engineering design, internet technology/research, CAD, and problem solving. The Chelsea Middle School 8th grade Career Discovery class competed with their vehicle in the 2007 and 2008 Basic Utility Vehicle (BUV) competition. They placed first in the open class in 2007 and both first and second place in the 2008 competition.
Most recently Calera High Schools Principals of Engineering class took their completed vehicle to the competition where they not only placed first in their class but they received the highest score of the competition and won the most innovative award. Through this project students have been transformed from kids that hated school to students who couldn’t wait to get to school. Many of the students have developed leadership skills and are inspired to continue their education. This is the true success as a life changing education.
This program has strong support by the business and educational world. The Calera program had over 170 business/industry and association partners. These local, national, and international partners have donated materials, equipment, and technology to the projects. University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) Mechanical Engineering School has involved students and staff in technical support. Three of these vehicles have been set to Honduras where they are being used as an ambulance, school bus, and one has been outfitted with a plow and a fresh water well drill.