Ninety years old Queenwood School this is not what one would expect from a school for girls on the North Shore of Sydney, Australia. The school has a STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) program called Advanced Technologies and Engineering (ATE). With the enthusiastic support of the director, Queenwood is involved in solar racing, LEGO robotics and Arduino coding, as well as many other projects. Some parents get a big surprise during their first field trip.
An engineer who became a teacher, Andrew Draper is the head of ATE and leads a group of girls after school who restore a 1975 Suzuki Carry and equip it with an electric motor and batteries, known as the QUTE project. Sixteen enthusiastic girls work several days a week (15: 30–17: 30) in two teams to do the work. Sometimes they even want to work on a project for lunch. “They’re insanely interested,” says Andrew.
The girls are between 8 and 12 years old, and they are improving their skills during the project. Mr. Draper, as they call him, brings them together in teams to complete different stages of the project, acquiring skills in different automotive disciplines. For example, today they are going to disassemble the brakes and document the process so they can reassemble them. No matter how hard he tries, Andrei can’t find a guide to the 50-year-old car, which they got for almost nothing, so the photo is very important. He says he needs an assistant. I think he is right.
Andrew has rebuilt with students other cars before – classic British cars including the Morris and Mini Minor – but this is his first electric car with Graham’s generous support DIOSES. The girls have electrical components that take time, so it’s car preparation. The girls look at it as a two-year project. The goal of this year is to restore the vehicle to the standard suitable for registration, and next year – the device of electrical engineering. Some of the senior girls may graduate before completing the project, but this does not dampen their enthusiasm.
The Australian Electric Vehicle Association has helped with advice on conversion kits. Andrew expects more help if the girls enter the project further, as they are not yet in the electricity stage!
The completed, refurbished electric Carry is expected to replace the obsolete Mitsubishi Canter used by the school to deliver lunches, receive mail and perform other deliveries. Using an economy package and a cardan shaft made to order from DIYOZEV, the Suzuki Carry must have about 100 km of range, and to perform these duties you only need to charge once a week.
The project was also supported by local welders Northern Beaches Mobile Welding and metal maker Marcus Engineering, as rot cutting and welding are two of the few parts of the project that the girls cannot complete due to safety concerns. Bevan Dooley, Managing Director Janus, is the father of Queenwood. He was and talked to the children, and passed with them a set of OZDIY.
The layout for the electric motor and motor mount will be cut from a 3 mm layer on a laser cutter, which will allow you to adjust the light manikin to the existing motor mounts. These templates can then be made locally from steel for individual customization. The electric motor will have direct drive, partly for simplicity and partly because the engine and gearbox were missing when the car was delivered!
The well-equipped Queenwood Forest Workshop also formed plans for the tray; the back of the hardwood is in the pipeline, with a shallow box through the battery storage tray and lockable tool boxes on top to hold the load.
The big question is: why?
For Andrei, we are talking about gender equality. He wants to encourage and enable his girls to enter engineering, both at university and trade level. “Even if it’s not their last career, it allows you to send them with a high degree of tool ownership and attitude,” Andrew says.
For girls, it’s part of the fight against climate change, it’s about reusing materials like the old car body and recycled batteries that just ended up on the tip, it’s creating a vehicle that will charge when parked with a donated second-hand-held solar panel on the roof of the school building.
Girls are really supported to become young women, equipped and motivated to change the situation. Per Aspera ad Astra indeed, Elon would be proud. If your school is involved in its own QUTE project – please contact me, I would like to write your story!
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