Calera students bring home national engineering award

Many Americans associate excellent engineering programs with names like Purdue University, the University of Missouri and other nationally recognized colleges.

But a group of 10 Calera High School students recently proved excellent engineering does not require a high school diploma.

The school’s basic utility vehicle team, led by teacher Brian Copes, was awarded first place in the open class of a national BUV competition in Zionsville, Ind.

Calera was one of two non-college institutions to compete in the event, which included John Brown, Purdue, Northern Illinois and Trine universities.

The State University of New York, the University of Cincinnati, Valparaiso University, the University of Missouri and Hamblen County (Tenn.) Schools.

“Their effort has gotten attention all over the state, the nation and the world,” Alabama Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr. said during an Oct. 20 assembly at the school honoring the team.

During the competition, the teams showcased vehicles they designed to be handicap-accessible, all-terrain vehicles to be used in developing countries. The vehicles then were thoroughly tested and judged by a panel of professional engineers.

“The process these students went through was not only creative. It was revolutionary,” Folsom said. “It literally has the potential to transform the economies of developing countries.

“Alabama has problems, and that’s how we get past them,” Folsom added. “We find creative ways to solve them, just like these students have done.”

Members of the Calera team were Kyle Brasher, Eric Burrells, Delvin Davis, Kalyn Grant, T.J. Killingsworth, Jared Lollar, Ethan McKenzie, Chris McKinney, Cikai Shanks and Julius Smith.

“What you are seeing up here is a group of students who competed at a very difficult level,” Copes said of the team. “They didn’t compete against just some rinky-dink colleges, either.

“They competed against some of the best, and they succeeded,” Copes added. “If middle and high school students can be successful at that level, the sky is the limit.”

Calera High School Principal Richard Bishop praised the students for drawing international attention to the southern Shelby County city.

“This project is about making a difference,” Bishop said. “And, in the case of these students, it’s about making a difference internationally.”