Abu Dhabi electric car race sparks passion of UAE and foreign high school teams

More than 400 pupils showed off their three-wheelers at the UAE Electric Vehicle Grand Prix on Saturday

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Hundreds of high school pupils from the UAE and overseas met in Abu Dhabi on Saturday to race their 28 hand-built electric cars.

Students spent months researching and testing their brightly coloured three-wheeled vehicles to showcase them at the second annual UAE Electric Vehicle Grand Prix.

The event, held at the Al Forsan International Sports Resort, saw more than 400 students from 28 high schools in the UAE, US, Egypt and Italy come together to put their creations through their paces.

There were 21 teams from the UAE, five from the US and one team apiece from Egypt and Italy. Each were guided by teachers and technical experts.

“What really excites me is being able to learn so much. This can't be measured,” 16-year-old Saeed Al Mulla, who was taking part in his first race, told The National,

The engineers too are mainly girls. They built the car and many are planning to pursue engineering in university
Farishtey Farhad, student at the Al Basma British School in Abu Dhabi

The Emirati student, who attends Al Ittihad Private School in Dubai's Jumeirah, said he built a sensor to track the car's performance and battery efficiency for his team, the IPSJ Falcons.

“My part is to focus on reliability,” he said.

“We focused on the mechanical and strategic side to optimise motor efficiency and how the drivers should pace out electrical consumption throughout the race.”

Real-world experience

Preparing for Saturday's race helped the pupils work out why the battery was heating up and how to reconfigure sensors emitting inaccurate data.

“I knew nothing about mechanical engineering or how a car actually works before this,” Saeed said.

“This has taught me that if you work hard, you can do well in a field you know nothing about.”

The passion to learn more about sustainability was evident among all the teams, with participants keen to gain real-world experience.

“We have to make sure we don't flip the car because if we take a turn too tight, that is a possibility,” said Hailey Preuss, a first-time race driver visiting from the US with the Shenandoah Valley Short Circuits club.

The 16-year-old moved from the pit crew to taking the wheel this year.

“I'm a bit of an adrenaline junkie. I like the thrill of going fast,” she said.

“It's a totally different way of thinking from the pit crew where the main goal is to get the driver in and out, to actually having to focus on conserving the car's energy.”

Hailey said she had enjoyed visiting the UAE.

“This is the first time I have ever left the US. It has been an amazing experience of a different culture, seeing the architecture and a different landscape,” she said.

Girl power

Her team has an all-female driving crew.

“This year we are female-dominated. We only have two males in our team of seven,” she said.

High female participation was evident in other teams too.

“We have 16 people in our team and the majority are girls,” said Farishtey Farhad, a team leader from the Al Basma British School in Abu Dhabi.

“The engineers, too, are mainly girls. They built the car and many are planning to pursue engineering in university.”

The 18-year-old heads the marketing and social media section of her team, Basma Blaze, and spoke of the benefits of teamwork.

“We spent hours working on the car, understanding how to get things done efficiently, making sure the car is more comfortable for the drivers.

“It was important for us to have the creative freedom to work on every aspect of the car.

Green technology

“It was also important to get out promotional videos to spread awareness about electric cars,” she added.

Hailey said that the sight of her own team working on their electric car had sparked curiosity in her Virginia neighbourhood.

“Electric vehicles are not common in the area I live in,” she said.

“When people see our team, they say, 'This is really cool that you build an electric car and get to race it.' ”

Her teammate, Andrew Berry, analysed the car's data to provide drivers with more information on tactics.

“It takes a lot to maintain and balance out the car,” the 16-year-old said.

The competition has prompted the teenagers to think of the benefits of working on green technology.

“I think electric vehicles are the future,” Andrew said.

“We have problems with global warming and if we use solar and electric cars, it can cut down carbon emissions for a better future.”

Updated: March 28, 2024, 9:47 AM