BENTONVILLE — A team of Bentonville High School students intends to convert a traditional gasoline-powered car into an electric one this semester and enter the vehicle in a national competition in the spring.
The team already has the car, a 2000 Chevrolet Malibu donated by a Bentonville dealership. Team members also have the confidence and much of the knowledge they need to complete the project, they said.
Project leaders Tyler Scifres and Kyle Watson, both seniors, and Steven Douglass, a junior, expect to have the help of about 10 other students involved in the Technical Student Association, a club focused on projects related to science, technology, engineering and math.
Tye Killingsworth, a digital electronics teacher at Bentonville High, is serving as the team’s adviser.
“I’m trying to stay as hands-off as possible,” Killingsworth said. “I’m just here to make sure they’re being safe and respectful.”
The team’s goal is to have the car ready in time for the EV Challenge, for which high school students build full-size and small-scale plug-in electric vehicles. The event takes place in April in Raleigh, N.C.
The Bentonville students have been laying the groundwork for their project since August by researching parts and building techniques and by raising money.
“Hopefully, as soon as we get back from break, we hit the ground running,” Scifres said.
Plans are to strip the car down, then build it back up, Watson said. Team members hope to get the conversion done in two or three months, leaving some time for testing before the competition.
“We’d like to have about a 20-mile range on a single charge,” Watson said. “We’re allowed a maximum voltage of 120 volts.”
The team is still raising money, but it got a boost when Wal-Mart’s Lab 415-C donated $9,000. Lab 415-C is a group of employees that develops new technologies that align with the company’s business strategies. Douglass’ father, Tom, is a senior manager of Lab 415-C.
Terry Harrison, general manager at Crain Hyundai of Bentonville, said the students also sought his help.
“We gave them a very inexpensive [car] we were going to send to the wholesale auction,” Harrison said. “We just thought it was really cool. Anytime we can, we’re glad to help.”
And Brown’s Collision Center, about a quarter-mile north of the school, agreed to give the team a place to store the car and work on it.
“They’re allowing us to use one of their bays and their machinery, all the heavy equipment we’ll need,” Scifres said. “They were one of the first people on this project.”
Paul Stolt, the school district’s director of communications, and Jeff Amerine, founding principal of Startup Junkie Consulting, also have been very helpful to the group, Scifres said.
Each of the three team leaders has an interest in some kind of engineering: Scifres in electrical, Douglass in aerospace, and Watson in mechanical.
“It will be fun to see how each person in the group approaches the project,” Scifres said.