It often seems like teenagers are powered mainly by social media, so it only makes sense that a group of high school students would build a car that really was. This 1967 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, converted to an electric car by at-risk students from five Kansas City high schools, will turn Twitter mentions and Facebook likes into wattage to complete a 1,000-mile trip to Washington, D.C.
The students are attending a run by nonprofit Minddrive, which admits 30 students per year who are “slipping through the cracks of the ‘traditional’ educational system.” The students work with engineers and mentors to convert old vehicles to run on electricity.
This educational trip is all about connecting: students connect what they learned in the lab to what they see in the real world, and they must connect with other students and people along the way or they don’t move on to the capital. The “social fuel” needed to complete the trip has been assessed at 71,040 watts. An Arduino computer connects the drive train to the cloud and registers in live time the wattage of a Twitter follow, for instance, with a value of 5 watts. A Facebook like is worth only 1 watt.
It makes a kind of sense, though — social media requires electricity, electric cars require electricity, and changing the way we use transportation requires cooperation and communication. We’re willing to buy it. Or at least, we’re willing to tweet at these kids so they don’t get stranded somewhere in Kentucky.