CHS engineering kicks into high gear

2008 was a banner year for Calera High School’s principal engineering program, and teacher Brian Copes is confident that 2009 won’t be much different.

Just before the New Year, the program received biodiesel lab equipment to develop alternative fuels — made possible by a $5,000 grant from CAWACO. Then came another surprise.

Various donors contributed a biodiesel hybrid car to the program for research use. Then came another surprise.

Honda Motor Company designated CHS as one of 180 Honda University sites nationwide. Honda University is a computer-based training program on how to properly construct and deconstruct gas-powered engines.

“We received a set of materials that we can install on the computers and students can read through these online lessons,” Copes said. “To my surprise, we are the first school in Alabama to be given the opportunity to be a part of the training program.”

Copes said Honda University affords students the chance to hone their technical skills and prepare for the workforce.

The new developments come as Copes and his students continue to build a basic utility vehicle, or BUV, from scratch. The class will compete in the Institute for Affordable Transportation’s National BUV Competition in Indianapolis later this year.

Students are building the BUV using an assembly kit they’ve worked on since the start of the school year. In addition, students are producing and editing a step-by-step video to accompany the assembly kit.

The kits will eventually be shipped to developing countries in need of affordable and simple transportation. According to IAT, a BUV can be assembled anywhere by anyone.

BUVs are designed for warm climates, slow speeds up to 20 miles per hour and rural, unpaved roads. The vehicles can also run on environmentally friendly biodiesel fuel.

Copes said the program’s new biodiesel lab equipment is still in its shipping box. In February, Copes will travel to Tennessee for training.

“We have a lot of things going on right now,” Copes said. “We’re excited.”