Calera High School/Middle School BUV Project

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TSA members in Calera, Alabama, Show Their STEM and Leadership Skills As Modern Day Automobile Inventors 

The Technology Student Association student members in the Engineering class at Calera Middle/High School in Calera, Alabama, have taken the role of a modern day Henry Ford as they develop affordable transportation for the needy masses around the world.  “Participating in the Basic Utility Vehicle (BUV) project, they are not only learning valuable Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic (STEM) skills, but they are learning community service as they give of their time and talents to people and groups that they will probably never meet,” said TSA chapter advisor Brian Copes.

Five years ago, Mr. Copes modeled his classroom after a popular Discovery Channel TV series, Monster Garage or Pimp My Ride.  “Essentially, I rolled in a 1997 EZ-GO golf cart and challenged my students to transform it into a mud-loving monster. Like the TV series the students had to video tape their project to document their work, Copes said.”  A central-Alabama conservation company, the Cawaco RC&D Council is partnering with several companies to fund a mini-car factory assembly line located in the Calera High School's Principles of Engineering biodiesel lab. 

Through this innovative engineering project, students learn many skills such as teamwork, mechanics engineering, design, CAD and problem solving.  The project supports STEM skills learned in the TSA middle school competition, Inventions and Innovations,  as well as the high school competition, Engineering Design.

Designed for use in underdeveloped countries the BUV’s are made from sustainable and easily replaceable parts.    All of the “Eagle” vehicles, including a 2-wheel, 4x4, a transport bus, an ambulance and a vehicle capable of drilling fresh water wells, have frames constructed from treaded water pipe, utilizing the front suspension system from salvaged Toyota Corollas.  The Eagle vehicle uses 14” diameter wheels and tires to ensure availability of replacement parts in the third world. Parts on the vehicles were designed to be maintained and repaired with small hand tools by a low-skilled labor force.  The vehicles run on diesel fuel, which can be found virtually anywhere in the world. 

MagnoliaLand Entertainment, in partnership with the Calera students , is planning to film a full-length documentary about the BUV project.  “This will be a full blown Hollywood-scale production,” Copes said.

The documentary will begin filming at Calera High School as the students and their sponsors construct their award-winning vehicle.  “The film will follow the steps from the raw materials to the finished product, then follow the vehicle on it trip to the country of destination. Upon arrival, the U.S. students will then take the role of educators as they instruct the 8th graders in that country on how to assemble the Basic Utility Vehicle and it accessories.  MagnoliaLand Films and the students of Alabama are seeking partners to help with product placement and the financing of the film. The documentaries budget is $100,000.

“Eagle’ is the mascot of Calera Middle School/High School.   The kids chose the name for the fleet of vehicles because they feel the BUVs will offer freedom to people oversees in terms of mobility that allows for goods and services to be brought to and from the marketplace,” Copes said.

The BUV offers two attachments that can be easily removed.  A tiller, to be used for farming, and a drill mounted on the back of the vehicle that can be used to drill for water.  “In areas where people may have to walk miles for water, this can provide a more convenient source for water for drinking, bathing, and irrigation,” Copes said.

Calera students have taken their vehicles to a collegiate competition in Indianapolis, Indiana sponsored by the Institute for Affordable Transportation (IAT).  In 2007 and 2008 the Chelsea Middle School 8th grade student's Basic Utility Vehicle (BUV) placed first in the open class. The 2008 the students placed both first and second place in the open class. Most recently, Calera High School's 2009 Principles of Engineering students took their completed vehicle to the competition where they not only placed first in their class but also received the highest score of the competition and won the most innovative award.  In 2010 another team from Calera High School repeated their success by placing first in the open class.

Calera Middle/High School TSA is seeking contacts and sponsors locally including the Birmingham (Alabama) Rotary Club.  The Birmingham Rotary Club works with a relief organization in Nicaragua that may be interested in participating in the project.  There have been 180 business partners involved in the BUV project offering  technical  support,  parts or financial donations .  So far 99% of project has been funded through these donations.

View the Children Changing The World Documentary trailer on YouTube.