PUPIL POWER: St Joseph’s College Year 8 students will race in upcoming six-hour and 24-hour Pedal Prix events. Team members Jorja Seier, 14, Paris Cocks, 13, Calab Bowers, 14, Jacko Pall, 13, Jasper Baker, 13, and Julia Shelly (in the cockpit), 13, show off ‘Genesis’, the machine they will use as part of the RACV Energy Breakthrough program.
Photo: PAUL MENSCH

A PEDAL Prix isn’t your ordinary bike race, or school subject.

An intrepid group of Year 8 students from St Joseph’s College will tackle the challenge of a six-hour, then a 24-hour, pedal-powered endurance race – all part of the school curriculum.

St Joseph’s College is one of a number of schools from across Australia taking part in the RACV Energy Breakthrough program.

The program aims to provide an innovative technology project for students from Prep to VCE level, encouraging young people to explore solutions to environmental and transport issues, and build on teamwork, leadership and communication skills.

The program is an integrated study subject, with a number of other subjects involved for students who are part of the program.

The Year 8 crew will race ’Genesis’, which resembles a pedal-powered rice bubble from the future, in a round of the South Australian series in Adelaide on July 29 and 30, before tackling the massive 24-hour race in Maryborough on November 23 to 26.

The team consists not only of drivers, but mechanics, engineers and other support crew.

While teachers have laid down the groundwork for the program, ideas and decisions have mostly been initiated by the students.

Paris Cocks, 13, said the program was fun and exciting to experience.

“We’ve all really gotten to know each other and become good friends out of it,” she said.

Jasper Baker and Jacko Pall, both 13, said they thought it was “a cool opportunity” when they heard about it.

“It has been good to be part of it, but we didn’t expect it to be as tough as it was,” Jasper said. “We thought it would just be getting in and riding but it’s a lot more technical.”

St Joseph’s College Head of Year 8, Marcus Parker, said the Energy Breakthrough program incorporated many different aspects of learning that worked alongside the regular curriculum.

“Obviously there is the physical side of things, but there is also the scientific aspect, learning about drag and air flow, the materials that are used for aerodynamics, and helping to look after themselves health-wise,” Mr Parker said.

“At Maryborough the students have to complete a 20-minute presentation to a panel about what they’ve been doing and why.

“We thought it would be a great way to be learning about a new project. It’s the first time we’ve been able to do it, and we’ve got students on board who are interested in racing as well as behind the scenes things. We’re setting the parameters for the project, but the idea is that it is mostly driven by the students.”

The crew have completed weekly practice sessions with Genesis at Austlink, as well as weekly gym sessions and classes specific to the subject.

The team riders average 25km/h, with times at a kilometre-long practice track also improving by about a minute.

While St Joseph’s are racing via the school program, teams of any age and capability can enter race events, meaning that primary school teams will be on the track at the same time as adults. Of course there are individual classes within the race.

Winners are those who complete the most laps within the time frame.

Mr Parker said the students were keen to race in Adelaide on the same track as the Australian Supercars’ Clipsal 500 event.

“The racers will spend 20 to 25 minutes in the vehicle, which will be the longest time they have done it for,” he said.

“For the Year 8 campus, the project fits in with different programs we’re trying to implement and that will hopefully benefit the kids.

“They’re more engaged in learning about something they’re really interested in.

“Hopefully some of the skills they’ll take out of it can set them up for the rest of their schooling years.”

More information about the Energy Breakthrough program can be found online at www.racveb.com.