NPSS, Prespatou compete among Western Canada’s Best at go-kart event

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Two Peace Region high schools competed among the best and brightest mechanical students across western Canada at the Edison Motors High School Go Kart Challenge in late May.

North Peace Secondary School (NPSS) in Fort St. John, and Prespatou School were among 20 institutions that competed at the event on May 25th at the Merritt Rodeo grounds.

According to Prespatou teacher William McColm, the schools were among a list of six that were personally sponsored by Edison founder and CEO Chace Barber.

Possessed with a background in robotics, he personally called Barber to get his team in the competition after seeing a video promoting the event on TikTok.

“I contacted him personally and chatted with them over the phone and convinced them to make us one of the schools [Chace] wanted to sponsor,” said McColm.

“This is where my domain specialty is and we've built gas-powered go-karts before,”

Each school was given a kit that included axles, brakes, and batteries, with students tasked with designing, welding, and building their designs.

Having taught a power mechanics course to the students, McColm was able to guide his team, which featured students from grade eight, nine, and grade 11, many times working through lunch hour to put their cart together.

It helped, adds McColm, that his Grade 10 students designed a gas-powered go-kart last year.

The kits, which McColm says were described as ‘mobility scooter carts’ by Barber, came with no instructions from overseas.

It’s something McColm believes was vital in having the teams come up with innovative ideas.

“Chace wanted to see what kind of innovation and what kind of resourcefulness the kids would bring together in order to make sense of a box full of parts,” said McColm.

Prespatou and NPSS received assistance to travel the 14-hour long trip to the south central interior through the sponsorship of School District 60 and several local businesses, including Cancor Rathole, Diamond Contracting, Roger Myram, Arctech Welding, and Brian Campbell.

McColm says while his students, who are members of the Mennonite community just an hour north of Fort St. John seemed like “fish out of water,” they essentially got their bearings when they arrived in the pits at the Merritt rodeo grounds.

“There were four or five teams that didn’t have working go-karts when the competition started,” said McColm. “When you're dealing with an electric go-kart kit with no instructions, it means that there are teams that hook electrical wires up backward.”

On race day, teams were slated to compete in four different competitions: sled pull, off-road, a speed course, and a barrel race.

They were allowed to run as many times as possible, with the best times being tracked. NPSS’s kart focused on off-road, while Prespatou had a kart which was based on agility and speed.

In the end, McColm’s students won an award for innovative design, something the kids can look back fondly upon going forward.

“They faced real-world challenges,” said McColm, adding as the Applied Design, Skills, and Technology teacher in the K-12 school, he’s been teaching them the skills needed since his team was in Kindergarten.

“Seeing real-world application of these technology skills, it's really rewarding to see that and it's really rewarding to have that flexibility in the curriculum to work with these kinds of things with the kids.”

For more on the competition, visit the Edison Challenge Facebook page.

Ed Hitchins, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Energeticcity.ca