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Mill Creek Greenpower Team motors to first place in Oxford

MADISON – A student team at Mill Creek Elementary School had never worked together at a competition, but they didn’t let their novice status get in the way.

The Mill Creek Greenpower Racing Team won first place overall at the Choccolocco Green Prix Race in Oxford on Jan. 19.

“My students were excited about winning the first-place team award. This was their first competition together, and they were very proud of their accomplishments,” sponsor Jacqueline K. Smith. A National Board Certified Teacher, Smith works as fifth-grade STEM teacher and extended-day director at Mill Creek.

“As a teacher, I was most proud of how all of the students worked together and supported each other,” Smith said. Ten schools with about 150 students participated.

In addition to their team honor, students earned Top 3 finishes in individual awards. Harrison Bock received third place in drag racing. In circuit track racing, Eli Brown was first-place winner, and Jaiden Lawrence claimed third place.

Mill Creek’s Greenpower team includes fourth-graders Medha Akarapu, Tyler Barnard, Savannah Barnard, Harrison Bock, Austin Brown and Jaiden Lawrence; and fifth-graders Clark Asher, Eli Brown, Sophia Brown, Devansh Goyal, publicist and photographer Lillian McFadden, Evelyn Mustell, Nirvan Nagapuri and Julius Whitehorn. These students all drive and work in the pit crew (except McFadden).

Greenpower advances understanding of STEM topics and inspires innovation in youth with immersive experience of designing, building and racing electric-powered vehicles. The program provides students in grades 4-12 (also post-secondary) hands-on, project-based learning that engages students academically and builds critical employability skills, Smith said.

In addition, Greenpower promotes collaboration, communication and unity among team members. “These interpersonal skills will serve them well throughout their life and career,” Smith said.

The Mill Creek Greenpower Team is sponsored in part by grant funding from STEDTRAIN or “Science and Technology EDucation and TRAINing.”

Greenpower students rely on parent volunteers to transport race cars to/from races. “Before a race, cars undergo ‘scrutineering’ or a safety check. After our cars are cleared to race, all drivers meet for a final safety meeting. Students who aren’t on the track will work as pit crew members and push their teammates to the start line,” Smith said.

The team relies heavily on parental support with maintenance, transportation and coaching. “Our program would not be possible without their help. Our parent volunteers include Chris Bock, Taryn and Wil Brown, Laura and Tom Barnard and Ryan and Cathy Brown,” Smith said.

About six years ago, Smith’s sponsoring originated at a professional development workshop for Greenpower. “I was hooked,” she said. “This program gives students a unique opportunity to apply STEM concepts with their cars to real-life situations.”

“I also love that Greenpower is a family activity. Many of our parents attend every practice and have as much fun as the kids,” Smith said.

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