Chicago Students Build Virtual Alternative Energy Vehicles After School

A group of middle-school students at Chase Elementary School in Chicago spent 10 weeks building virtual alternative energy vehicles after school.

They did so with the help of volunteers from Citizen Schools, a nonprofit organization that works to expand the learning day for children in low-income communities, and Hikvision, a maker of video surveillance equipment.

Volunteers from the company and the nonprofit visited the school once a week for the engineering design project that had as its overarching goal the enhancement of the students' science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills.

In the after-school project, students were able to build structures and vehicles, test their load-bearing capacity using technology and then apply what they had learned to an understanding of how alternative energy vehicles operate.

As a culmination of the 10-week program, the students were able to "teach back" to teachers, parents and community members what they had learned during a WOW! Event held May 15.

"These opportunities are crucial for students in many urban areas," said Citizen Schools CEO Steve Rothstein. "By the time they have reached the sixth grade, they typically receive 6,000 fewer hours of academic and personal enrichment opportunities than students in higher-income communities."

"Coming into the classroom every week and seeing how excited the students got was an incredible experience," said Hikvision sales engineer Ahmed Elsayed, who was a volunteer in the program. "Their desire for knowledge was palpable and I’m proud to be part of a program that fostered that."

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.