Skip to main content
Mount Royal Collegiate
Inspiring Learning

Kart project drives learning for mechanics students

June 20, 2022

Race 1-news.jpgA unique extracurricular experience is driving opportunity at Mount Royal Collegiate.

During the past three months a group of students and teachers, with the support of technicians from a Saskatoon car dealership, brought new life to two go-karts in preparation for race day.

The school is one of five schools across the province that took on the task of converting gas-powered karts into electric racers, customizing the mechanics and bodies, and preparing them to race as part of a partnership with Swervin's Mini Indy based in Regina.

"When we got them, they were gas-powered, the bodies were damaged, and the frame needed to be modified," said Erik De Coninck Smith, mechanics teacher at Mount Royal.

"We have had to do the fabrication and problem-solve a lot of stuff, but the main goal was to convert it to electric. It's been cool learning about this stuff on a small scale. How to wire, what type of motor, what type of battery and how long is it going to last."

Race 4-news.jpgDuring the races held June 18-19, the Mount Royal kart team won two races and its No. 60 black and gold kart finished third overall among the eight karts from five schools across the province.

A small group of mechanics students were invited to take part in the program. The group met weekly for several hours each time to strip down the cars, make repairs, convert the karts to disc brakes, and tackle the conversion from a gas engine to a battery power. Throughout the process the group has received support, advice, and hands-on assistance from technicians at Jubilee Ford who serve as mentors for the program.

De Coninck Smith estimates students have invested more than 40 hours of work in the karts. The mentor technicians, along with members of Mount Royal's teaching staff, have contributed their expertise and skills in several ways, such as the fabrication of parts in the school' machining lab.

MRCkarts20-news.jpg"It's mechanics, it's fabrication, it's wiring, it's problem solving," he said. "It takes it a step further just because there is no manual for this stuff. We can't look up service information. You have to do your research."

For both students and adult mentors, the project involved a degree of trial and error and ability to troubleshoot problems, such as a significant wiring issue with the motor.

"It was student's suggestion that solved it. His hobby experience with DC power led him to suggest that the wiring could be done differently — backward," explained Justin Scheirich, one of the mentors from Jubilee Ford.

The exterior shells of both karts also required repairs. The Wyant Group's Alloy Collision Centre welcomed students to their shop where the body work was done. Students painted one of the shells in Mount Royal's black and gold, while the other was painted light blue. Stickers and logos were added once the vehicles were ready for final assembly.

Students were able to utilize knowledge acquired during the mechanics courses, but they had to learn how to adapt and view problems through different lens because of the nature of the project, particularly the gas to electric conversion.

MRCkarts11-news.jpg"If any Grade 10 student asks a question about a course, I know the answer because I have heard it a hundred times. But in here if they ask a question, we might not know the answer," De Coninck Smith said. "It's good for them to see that there's not always an answer. We have to figure it out as a group — even the grownups don't know."

As the automotive industry evolves and electric vehicles become more prevalent, a small-scale opportunity to convert and reengineer a kart provides students with insight into the future.

"A lot of them, especially the ones who are hardcore automotive fans, like that old-school V8 and gas. Our job is to make sure they are open to everything," De Coninck Smith said. "We are helping them understand that this is future. If you want to be working on cars in 10 years you are going to be working on electric cars."