Medford schools get boost with donation of electric vehicles
North Medford High School student Ruby Jacobsen sat in the shell of a car this week at the institution’s auto shop, where she is learning to be a diesel mechanic.
It might seem like nothing much now, but when that shell becomes a car, it will run on batteries.
“We don’t usually do electrical stuff in the shop, so it’s definitely going to be different,” she said.
Thanks to a donation from Rogue Valley Clean Cities Coalition, Jacobsen, her classmates and students throughout the Rogue Valley will be able to build and operate electric vehicles.
The coalition came to an agreement with the Medford School District to sponsor one switch lab kit, with a price tag of $40,000. The kit will be utilized by North Medford High School, South Medford High School, Central Medford High School and Medford Online Academy.
In addition, the coalition purchased two “smaller, lighter-weight” vehicles, for $5,000 apiece, targeted for advanced placement students. The vehicles will be used by Ruch Outdoor Community School, Hedrick Middle School, McLoughlin Middle School and Jackson Elementary School.
Grant Cory, an auto mechanic teacher at South Medford, said he went with other local instructors to California to learn how to build the electric vehicles the students have now.
“We do know this is what you’re going to find in service bays — they’re already there,” Cory said. “We knew we had to get this into our lesson plan.”
Michael Quilty is coordinator for Rogue Valley Clean Cities Coalition. The group is part of an effort that the U.S. Department of Energy created in the mid-1990s to advocate for alternative fuels and technologies to save energy.
Today, there are more than 75 entities across the nation like the local clean cities coalition with the same aim — to invest in reshaping the workforce.
“We’ve noticed for quite a long time that a big hurdle to getting alternative fuels is getting people trained to be technicians to work on the vehicles,” Quilty said. “We’ve also noticed that getting trained, skilled workers can be a difficult thing to do in a small community, and our board made a commitment ... to try and influence kids in the valley to look at careers in this area.”
Hal Jones, career and college readiness coordinator for the Medford School District, brought a proposal for a middle to high school program to get kids interested in alternative fuels.
“We [wanted to] promote, among middle and high school students, increased technical knowledge about the benefits of the automotive industry’s movement toward full adoption of electrical technology,” Jones said. “By all accounts, it looks like by the year 2035, all of the world’s major auto manufacturers will have adopted electric-powered platforms for all of their vehicles.”
Jones and others cited Volvo’s recent announcement that it would go all-electric by 2030 as one example of EVs coming into prominence. Just this week, the company said the shift from combustion engines to electric ones is “not free,” and that was a big reason why it listed itself on the Nasdaq Stockholm stock exchange.
Tai Adams, a senior at North Medford High School, remembers being in Las Vegas at the annual SEMA Show and seeing the electric vehicle that was donated to his school.
“I didn’t think much of it,” Adams said. “Then our teacher said we got one, and I said, ‘Hey, that’s cool. It will be a great project.’ I think it’s awesome [the clean cities coalition] donated it to us.”
That teacher, Scott Childers, learned about the electric vehicle program a number of years ago and thought it was something his students should learn. So when he heard from Jones that the district was investing in electric vehicles for them to build, his response was: “Let’s do it.”
Childers, who was an auto mechanic before going into teaching, said his students will be using more than just electric vehicle kits — they’ll be taking advantage of textbooks and other aids to utilize a curriculum on this sector of the automotive industry.
“We can just use this over and over again,” Childers said. “Electric vehicles aren’t going anywhere. They’re the current technology and the wave of the future. We have to get kids ready to work on electric vehicles.”