Welcoming New Members

Featured, General, Outreach / Thursday, January 7th, 2021

On January 21, 2020, the first case of COVID-19 was recorded in the United States, right here in Washington State. As one of the first states to go under a stay-at-home order, student life dramatically changed as all schools transitioned to a distance learning model. Into the summer, members battled to make progress despite the restrictions COVID-19 posed. There was an undeniable sense of pride as we got the car driving under its own power, another incredible accomplishment on our road to Texas. With some members working 6-8 hours a day, the team was exhausted and was looking forward to the injection of enthusiasm new members would bring in the fall.

At the end of every year, the executive members come together to deeply analyze and reflect on the areas that could be improved upon. One of the most prominent questions we addressed: “How do we effectively integrate new and inexperienced members onto the team, and help them become well rounded in all aspects of the competition?” After many discussions, the executive team designed a 10-week onboarding course. Topics such as Energy Basics, Rules, Solar Power, Basic Circuits, Car Basics, CAD and Design, Manufacturing, Electronics, and Strategy were defined as fundamental aspects of building a solar car. 

Alexis Lee (10) plans, designs, and distributes take-home electrical kits for the Basic Circuits Lesson

The onboarding curriculum highlights student mentorship, a component not unitlized nearly enough. Erin McKelvey (12), an influential team leader states “Our onboarding curriculum and student mentorship efforts are incredibly important in order for our team to continue improving year after year. As students graduate, it is easy to allow them to take their knowledge base with them. This is why we focus on senior team members teaching the newer members what they know. We end up saving time in the long run as there is no need to relearn a concept that somebody else already has experience with. We can instead use that time and energy to improve upon what we’ve done in the past.” Each week, an experienced member leads the team through a lesson with four major parts: the pre-lesson, presentation, homework, and knowledge check. The pre-lesson is a way to challenge a member’s understanding before the initial lesson. Without prior knowledge, it is critical to develop inferences and hypotheses to accomplish a greater understanding. A team leader prepares a lesson to present to the team using their expertise in the topic, bringing inexperienced members up to speed. If there are questions or confusion from the pre-lesson activities, it is then addressed during this time. After the presentation, there is a brief homework section to expand upon this newly learned concept. Then finally, when the member feels confident, they take a knowledge check; a way to demonstrate your overall understanding. Abigail Jawili (9), an exceptional addition to the team, remarked “I’ve been learning a lot from this curriculum, it’s very organized, clear cut, it’s very well done. The curriculum is able to teach members aspects that are important to understand to be able to have knowledge of what makes a successful solar car even though it’s all online.” By the end of the 10 weeks, members will be prepared to carry their knowledge to prominent projects on the car. 

As we continue to advance through the onboarding curriculum, we have seen impressive growth from new members. The intension is also to expose new members to discover the areas of STEM they are interested in. Chip Swarner (10), an excited new team member claims, “The curriculum is definitely helpful in pointing you towards things you might enjoy, and the mentors do an excellent job of continuing to steer you towards that.”

Green Energy’s first meeting to welcome new members onto the team

The team is so excited to be welcoming on this group of new members. We will continue student mentorships beyond the onboarding curriculum to focus on projects within sub-teams. We anticipate that this further mentorship will solidify the team and knowledge leading up to the National Solar Car Challenge in July.

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