WCCT students build 'rat rod' for challenge in North Carolina

By NICOLE SMITH, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 1/22/17

Walker County Center of Technology automotive technology and collision repair students have taken on a large project in preparation for a competition in April.

Under the instruction of WCCT teachers Michael Craig and Anthony Myrick, students have …

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WCCT students build 'rat rod' for challenge in North Carolina

Posted

Walker County Center of Technology automotive technology and collision repair students have taken on a large project in preparation for a competition in April.

Under the instruction of WCCT teachers Michael Craig and Anthony Myrick, students have been building a vehicle to compete in the Charlotte STEAM Rat Rod Challenge at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

The R.A.T. (radically alternative thinking) project is sponsored by Charlotte STEAM (Science. Technology. Engineering. Art. Mathematics.) and Harper Corporation, and encourages students to exercise many skills to construct an operating vehicle. The program is under the direction of Scott Brown.

Craig, WCCT’s automotive technology instructor, said he read about the challenge in a magazine and sought more information on how WCCT students could participate. Since late last year, students have been working to build their vehicle, which will operate with parts from 10 vehicles and be a minimum of 80 percent recycled materials.

The main body of the rat rod is a ‘63 Ford school bus, which students cut in half and pieced back together. Pieces of a ‘95 Frito Lay truck, ‘90 GMC pickup, ‘70 Corvette, ‘99 Toyota Sienna, ‘80 GM motorhome and ‘70 Dodge motorhome have been used in the vehicles construction.

“Every piece that we’ve got for the bus has been from salvage yards,” Myrick, WCCT collison repair instructor, said. “If they can go out there and cut a bus in half and put it back together, then maybe the stuff they do when they go to work won’t scare them so much.”

Craig added, “For them to get real world experience, we have to get them to do real world work.”

The rat rod is also required to be equipped with a flat screen television to play a loop video detailing the process of the rat rod build.

Myrick and Craig have a total of roughly 90 students — both young men and women — who have all had a chance to work on the project; however, some have become particularly interested in the challenge and work on the vehicle often.

“Each one of them gets exposed to the project. It’s voluntary, but we do give everybody the chance to put a tool in their hand and work on it. The one’s that want to continue working on it are the one’s that are passionate about seeing it completed,” Craig said.

Many new parts have been bought to ensure the car can safely travel down the road, and their students have worked to build the rat rod’s engine. The project will teach them a number of skills, including engine repair, fabrication, geometry, problem solving, etc.

“They can gain some confidence. To me, that’s more important than anything. I hope a project like this will help them with that,” Myrick said.

Cawaco Resource Conservation and Development Council, Inc., presented WCCT with a $5,500 grant for the project, and Alabama Sen. Greg Reed, along with Jasper Auto Zone and NAPA Auto Parts of Jasper, have helped to fund the project directly or provide parts and equipment for the build.

Multiple departments have been involved in the rat rod challenge. WCCT drafting students have designed an interior for the bus, electrical technology students have helped with the technical aspect of the build, welding students have assisted in fabrication, health sciences students have helped with fundraising to complete the project and business students have helped with writing grants for supplies. Students from other programs have assisted, as well.

Myrick will drive the rat rod up to Charlotte for the competition on April 23. A few students who have participated in the build will also make the trip.

Curry senior Ace Hamilton has been working on the rat rod and said he has enjoyed the project.

“If you put your mind to it, set some time to do it and work with other people, you can get it done easily,” he said. Tyler Gardner, an Oakman senior, added, “Anything can be made to fit.”

Austin Davis, a senior at Curry, praised Myrick for his instruction during the project.

“Myrick is a good guy. He’s been a good teacher for my 10th, 11th and 12th grade years,” Davis said. “He’s been a blessing for this school. He always makes us do our best.”

Keith Boyd, an Oakman senior, said he believes their rat rod will turn out well, and that he’s thankful for the help from Craig during the process.

“He helps you out. One thing about him, he doesn’t give up. He helps you if you have problems. When I first came up here, I hardly knew anything about cars, and from there on out, Craig’s helped me do everything,” he said.

Myrick and Craig’s students will also be competing in the Downtown Jasper Electrathon in March to showcase their student built electric race cars, and will race the same cars at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham in early April. They will be in Indianapolis in May to race their Greenpower electric car and will continue to compete in other local and regional competitions.

Craig said all of the builds and competitions are meant to increase the confidence of students, and he wants the Walker County community to know how much opportunity is offered at WCCT for students to have a successful career after high school. Myrick said many of their students go straight to college after their time at WCCT or enter the workforce immediately after graduation. Some of their students have secured jobs prior to receiving their diplomas and are now on track to economic success.

“What I really want is the public to come talk to us, more than anything, because we’re that place they pass on their way to work or on their way to drop their kids off. I want people to come here on our campus and visit ... to see what these young men and women are learning,” Craig said.

For more information on Charlotte STEAM or the rat rod challenge, visit www. charlottesteam.org.