Training the next generation of sustainable leaders

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To protect the planet for future generations, widespread expertise is needed in the field of electric vehicles (EVs). Thankfully, the Greenpower Education Trust is helping to develop this by training tomorrow’s sustainable engineering leaders.

The Trust aims to advance the education of sustainable engineering and technology for young people through programmes that get nine- to 25-year-olds designing, building and racing electric cars. With over 10,000 young people from over 500 schools in the UK taking part each year, Greenpower is helping to create a more sustainable future, while promoting social inclusion by engaging with vulnerable and economically disadvantaged young people.

Salt spoke to Jeremy Way, CEO of Greenpower, to find out more about the organisation’s mission.

A further purpose

The Trust was initially started to address the national and global shortage of young people looking for careers in engineering. However, when today’s global environmental challenges became more obvious, Greenpower took on a further purpose.

To be successful in Greenpower, participants have to design and build the most efficient vehicle possible. The practical lessons this teaches young people are valuable, while there are also other unseen positive consequences, according to Way.

“Our participants are the EV buyers and drivers of the future. It is essential to change perceptions and they are learning just how great EVs are before many of them start even contemplating learning to drive.

“Children are perhaps the most important influencers in a household, so you can imagine how far-reaching the programme can be when a team member goes home after an event where they may have seen something inspirational like a Nissan Leaf, BMW i8 or McLaren P1 on display, and raves about how the family’s next car really should be an EV,” he said.

Solving global issues

Way believes his charity is playing an important role in tackling the world’s environmental challenges: “Greenpower is playing a small part in a very big picture, but I firmly believe some of those taking part in the project today will be leaders in sustainable engineering and therefore helping to solve global issues of our future.”

The charity CEO explained that participants have created some impressive results: “The top teams have built cars that averaged over 30 mph for four hours and consumed less than 30 pence worth of electricity in the process, achieving an equivalent of close to 2,000 miles per gallon – these are figures of which any automotive manufacturer would be proud.”

Big plans

Way has big plans with the Greenpower concept, he told Salt: “Quite simply we want many more people to benefit from the programme and so have a target to double participation by 2020, i.e. over 1,000 schools taking part in the UK. Over this period we expect up to 15 countries to take on a Greenpower licence, which will provide a significant additional strand to the programme with international collaboration between schools and students.”

Changing lives

He has no doubt that EVs are the future, with everyone driving one as their everyday car in the future. However Way said the charity has had a powerful social impact too: “It’s really different to any other charity, and is providing a genuinely life-changing experience for so many people every year.

“We even have teams run by police forces and social enterprises for at risk young people. We hear numerous stories of the positive effect taking part has on every participant from any background, and it has been known to completely change the lives for the better of all of their family as well.”

 

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Photo Credit: Engineering at Cambridge from flickr

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