Students race EVs at Lime Rock
Spencer Markow drove the first leg for Housatonic Valley FFA’s team in Electrathon on April 21. Aramis Oyanadel stood by until the midway point when he swapped in for the remainder of the race. 
Photo by Riley Klein

Students race EVs at Lime Rock

LAKEVILLE — Electric cars zipped around Lime Rock Park on April 21 for the 2023 Spring Electrathon. The race featured nineteen cars made by teams of students from high schools across New England and Canada.

The bi-annual event that began in 2001 drew a crowd of tailgaters to take in the action on a sunny spring day in Lakeville. Teams traveled from as far as Maine and Quebec to participate in the competition.

Local regulars returned for Electrathon as well, including the Housatonic Valley Regional High School FFA team. Retired HVRHS teacher Mark Burdick said he has been attending the race for over ten years.

“A lot of the kids that started it became engineers,” said Burdick. “Even though they’re not tractors, in ag it’s the same technology that they’re going to be building. Plus, the kids get to design and engineer and problem solve.”

The Housatonic FFA was among fifteen teams in the race and put forth two electric vehicles that were made by the students during Burdick’s class.

“Home-built from the frame up,” said HVRHS driver Aramis Oyanadel, who added that his car can top out at about 27 miles per hour.

The cars lined up for inspection at 10 a.m. by race officials. Several cars did not pass muster, including one of HVRHS’ due to a narrow roll-cage.

Each car was powered by 67-pound battery packs and included custom engineering and design flairs. The teams consisted of two drivers per car with a mandatory pit stop and driver swap midway through the race. The winner would be the car that completed the most laps within one hour.

The race officially began just before 1 p.m. with nineteen cars on the track. HVRHS ran into trouble on the first lap when a battery connection came loose. Some quick repairs by the pit crew allowed driver Spencer Markow to get back into the action and finish off a strong first leg for Housatonic.

At the midway point, Oyanadel swapped in for Markow and was cautious to preserve precious battery life. Oyanadel’s discipline paid off as he continually passed dying cars the longer the race went on.

When the checkered flag flew, only a handful of cars had any juice left and HVRHS was among them. Housatonic placed third in the Classic Division by completing 40 laps within the hour. Noble High School’s two cars placed first with 45 laps in car one and tied for second with Seymour High School at 41 laps in car two.

The Composite Division was won by Wilby High School with 38 laps. The Novice Division was won by Northwestern High School with 35 laps in their first appearance in the event.

Electrathon Coordinator Mike Grella, a retired teacher, was pleased that interest in the event remains high.

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years and it’s great to see the kids excited about learning. The race is just the tinsel on top,” said Grella.

Electrathon will return this October for the fall installment of the competition.

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