LaGRANGE, Ga. (WRBL) – Ethel W. Kight Elementary School participated in their first Greenpower USA race on Sat. Oct. 23, 2021. Greenpower USA races provide students with opportunities to build and race battery- powered cars to boost STEM learning in schools.

The Silver Knights are the team from Ethel W. Kight Elementary School that consists of fourth and fifth graders who won third place in the circuit race for the first time.

Matthew Graham, the Greenpower USA STEM Coordinator for Troup County Schools and teacher at Long Cane Middle School, said he had the idea to begin the Greenpower USA program after visiting a school in northern Alabama that was participating in races.

“There are so many life lessons embedded into this program, just countless life lessons. Whether it’s in the classroom, working on the car or whether it’s at the events competing. I just think that this program for so many students is going to provide an experience that they will remember for the rest of their lives. It’ll have a big impact on helping them choose what career fields I might be interested in or what career fields am I not interested in which can be just as valuable so I love it for all those reasons,” said Graham.

Graham said his favorite part is watching all the students work together and lean on each other to solve problems. He said many students quickly learn they need each other to build a successful car that can win races.

All the public and private schools in Troup County were placed in a grant proposal to the Callaway Foundation to help fund the Greenpower program for the schools that were interested in participating. The Callaway Foundation is a non-profit organization that aims to help the people and projects in LaGrange and Troup County. The Foundation approved the grant and now several elementary schools and middle schools in Troup County can participate in the Greenpower USA program and races.

The Greenpower USA program has been part of the community since fall 2017 with Graham leading the way since then. Students who are part of the Greenpower teams must work together to build the cars, create a presentation and present the information they’ve learned at the races.

Matthew Karr, one of the organizers for the Ethel Kight Greenpower team and a teacher at Ethel Kight, said he has loved seeing the students connect the experience from the Greenpower races to their personal lives. Many students have spoken about how the skills they’ve learned at school they have also used at home.

“Seeing that connection that it doesn’t have to stay here and the connection that they have already kind of had the exposure to and just the joy that they had when some of them have never used these tools before,” said Karr.

He also said his favorite part of working with the team is learning alongside the students. He said it has been a great learning process for all of them and seeing the joy on the students faces as they learn has been worth it.

Karr said the team was ecstatic to learn they had earned a trophy for placing third in the circuit race. He said they did not expect to win anything since it was their first year participating and had only received the kit about six weeks prior to the race.

Skyler Vanzant and Brody Morgan are fourth graders at Ethel W. Kight Elementary School and members of the Greenpower team, they agreed they will definitely be joining the team again next year.

“My favorite part was cheering everyone on even if they weren’t on my team and watching other people drive,” said Morgan.

Vanzant said he learned a lot about what needs to be in the car and the procedures to make the car run correctly. He credits his teachers for the success the team has seen so far.

“Thank you for being here because you all did not have to do that but they got out of their work time just to help us so I really appreciate it,” said Vanzant.

The Silver Knights are looking forward to their next race on Nov. 20, 2021 in Uptown Columbus.