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Small and In Charge

Electric vehicles take over one Virginia electric cooperative

June 2024

Shenandoah Valley Electric Vehicle Grand Prix, Rockingham, Va.

by Preston Knight, Contributing Writer

Forget range anxiety. These tiny electric vehicles traveled from Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley to Abu Dhabi.

Sure, airplanes were involved, but the distance covered still represents a significant achievement. It shows that participation in the Shenandoah Valley Electric Vehicle Grand Prix gives high school students more than just a cursory overview of the good and bad of battery-charged cars. There are educational opportunities at every turn.

The grand prix, hosted in April by Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative in Rockingham, Va., pits local high schools against each other, seeing which one could complete the most laps throughout two 30-minute heats. This year was the third installment of the race, featuring 13 teams, including two from Maryland.

Given their success from the previous two years, two Virginia programs, one from Harrisonburg High School and another from Augusta County, known as the Shenandoah Valley Short Circuits, went to Abu Dhabi in March for the competition’s international version. The Short Circuits were victorious there, while Harrisonburg was the third-place finisher.

“I’d go back in a heartbeat,” Short Circuits’ participant Andrew Berry says. “The place is beautiful, safe, clean. Better than some places I’ve been in in the U.S. The architecture is so different. You ride down [here] and see field, barn, field. You ride down there and see skyscraper, skyscraper, skyscraper.”

He recalled his overseas trip while decked out in full race gear at SVEC’s office, where his father is a system engineer. Familial ties were not what led the younger Berry to participate in the competition; it was a personal interest in technology. “I think it’s fun,” he says. “I would recommend it to anyone. Anyone who likes racing. It’s different than what you think, but it works.


SVEC hosted the event in partnership with Global EEE, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that stands for Education, Energy and Environment. To offset the costs of electric vehicle kits offered by Global EEE, the cooperative and its wholesale energy provider, Old Dominion Electric Cooperative, provided financial assistance. Teams were also encouraged to find sponsors to cover expenses.

The grand prix gives students with diverse skill sets a hands-on chance to put their knowledge and interests to use. There’s wiring, construction, data analysis and a touch of graphic design and marketing, as teams are advised to promote their work within their schools and communities. Awards handed out mirrored the educational aspects. There were recognitions for technical innovation, vehicle workmanship, women in science and engineering, car workmanship and team promotion, among others.

Massanutten Regional Governor’s School in Shenandoah County took home an award for best use of 3D printing by printing floor brackets designed to secure the floor of the chassis more effectively. Eastern Mennonite School in Harrisonburg was awarded best video for a two-minute compilation capturing the team’s months-long efforts to construct its vehicle, set to the song “The Greatest Show,” only the word “car” was dubbed over “show” in humorous fashion.

Harrisonburg exacted revenge on the Short Circuits by winning the local race. But for everyone involved, regardless of nishing position, the event was a success with far-reaching implications. “What the co-op is doing is looking way into the future,” says Matt Brame, department head of technology education at Millbrook High School in Frederick County, Va. “Students are looking at this and figuring out their specializations of where they would fit.

They’re expanding their horizons and not saying, hey, if I want to go to work at SVEC, there’s only one thing I can do, and that’s be a lineman. They’re seeing those layers and peeling back the layers of how to race an EV is the same for a career.”