STEM Engaged Learning

EcoCAR2 Challenge at CSU Los Angeles

Faculty, students and community partners involved in Cal State Los Angeles’s EcoCAR2 challenge expanded their efforts to educate members of the general public about alternative fuels and energy efficient electric and hybrid cars, while also working with a K-12 school to pilot an outreach initiative in which the K-12 students learn about energy efficiency and transportation and are then trained to teach their families and friends what they have learned.

EcoCAR2 is a three-year advanced plug-in hybrid vehicle design and build competition sponsored by the Department of Energy and General Motors and managed by Argonne National Laboratory. EcoCAR2 challenges 15 North American universities to reduce the environmental impact of vehicles by minimizing the vehicle’s fuel consumption and reducing its emissions while retaining its performance, safety and consumer appeal. The 35 CSULA students who are members of the team – the next generation of engineers – gain real-world experience in the development of extremely complex advanced vehicle technologies. At the conclusion of Year 2, CSULA’s EcoCAR2 team has claimed second place overall.

Alongside the engineering effort, EcoCAR2 includes communication, outreach and business components to mirror a real-world company model. The communications-related deliverables include public relations, marketing and community engagement. The team is dedicated to inspire, influence and educate the public on alternative vehicles, green technologies and sustainability. This past year, the team was able to achieve its goals in educating over 2,000 K-12 students and expanding partnerships with schools throughout Los Angeles County.

The CSULA team participated in events such as Boeing Day, where over 1,500 K-12 students visited Cal State LA’s campus and received education in the STEM fields. During the event, the EcoCAR2 team set up an information booth, opened up the vehicle lab for tours and held six different informative workshops introducing alternative vehicles and fuels to more than 150 students. They also collaborated with the campus MESA (Math, Engineering and Science Achievement) program, where they worked with middle and high school students to mentor disadvantaged students and encourage them to attend college and pursue careers in any STEM field.

Most importantly, the CSULA EcoCAR2 team had the opportunity to develop a new partnership with Eastmont Intermediate School. Thirty middle school students, who participated in the AVID program (Advancement via Individual Development), were trained through four workshops about advanced vehicles, alternative fuels and energy efficiency. Those middle school students became ambassadors of sustainability and clean-air technology within their families and peer groups.

Cal State LA's EcoCAR2 Challenge hosts middle school students to teach about hybrid and solar-powered cars.

Cal State LA students teach local middle school students about hybrid cars.

Cal State LA students teach middle schoolers about solar powered vehicles.

Middle School students test out solar power at Cal State LA.