Transportation

Students Accelerating Action: Captain Nichola Goddard School Green Commuting Challenge

greencommunitingchallenge.png

Students Accelerating Action: Captain Nichola Goddard School Green Commuting Challenge

Captain Nichola Goddard School in northwest Calgary was built for grades 5 to 9 as a community school, meaning that none of its students had to bus in from outside its catchment area. But despite the fact that nearly all the students lived within two kilometers, many of them were still being driven by their parents. Since the school wasn’t built with motor traffic in mind, it was plagued with congestion, unsafe driving, idling cars and stressed students late for class.

A group of students and teachers at the school decided to change the way students got there. From this, the Green Commuting Challenge was born. The program incentivized walking and cycling for students. It combines teaching students about their ecological footprint with a reward system for those who walk or bike to and from school, including prizes, such as pizza and movie tickets. The challenge makes it clear that everyone can participate and aim for a reward, not just the most devoted human-powered commuters.

Students won’t make lifestyle changes because of what [teachers] tell them. They’ll make lifestyle changes because of what their peers tell them.
— Debbie Rheinstein, Teacher at Nichola Goddard School

The program also makes it easier for younger students to participate, with “Green Commuting Hubs” – places around the community where students meet to walk together under the supervision of a Grade 9 student. By having older students direct and promote the project, the team was able to take advantage of relationships that already existed between students.

“As teachers, we can say things until we’re blue in the face, but students won’t make lifestyle changes because of what we tell them. They’ll make lifestyle changes because of what their peers tell them,” said Debbie Rheinstein, one of the teachers behind the program.

The program is wildly successful. Five years after its inception, Rheinstein saw students approaching staff at the beginning of the year asking about being involved before the Challenge was even advertised to them. It had become a part of the student culture at Nichola Goddard.

Much of the Green Commuting Challenge is administered by a group of Grade 9 students called the Green Commuting Leadership Team. In addition to planning, participating in and presenting the program at the Calgary Mayor’s Environment Expo, these students are instrumental in spreading the culture of environmentalism throughout the school.

Students grew the program among their peers and also among their teachers. They started, “car-free days,” to challenge teachers to join the Green Community Challenge. Rheinstein jokes the teachers felt peer-pressured by the students.

This initiative was successful because of the engagement and leadership of the students at the school. They took a small program and grew it into school-wide action, showcasing the tremendous impact students can have on the community around them.


This story was written in collaboration with The Green Medium.

For more information on education projects and opportunities in Alberta, see our resources page.

Submit your own new energy story here.

You Can Go Far with GoElectric

158. GoElectric.jpeg

You Can Go Far with GoElectric

After seeing an article about Tesla and electric vehicles (EV), Jim Steil realized this was the future. As both an electrical engineer and a “bit of a car guy,” he decided he was going to be part of that future. Six weeks after reading the article, he was laid off from his oil patch job; he decided the time was ripe to pursue his new dream.

His original plan was to convert classic cars into electric vehicles. The first vehicle Steil set about converting was his 1966 Volvo, his “eVolvo” as he called it. Word of his plans soon spread, and requests poured in from locals, many wanting their commuter cars converted, or wanting to know what would be involved in converting it themselves. However, delivering a safe, reliable, high-quality final product requires a lot of time and expensive parts, like Tesla batteries for example.

After more research, Steil and his partner, David Lloyd, found the best option for most folks was simply to buy an EV, and the idea of GoElectric was born. GoElectric is the first exclusively electric vehicle dealership in Alberta, and only the second in Canada.

GoElectric imports used EVs from California. Because of government incentives in California encouraging consumers to purchase new electric vehicles, many lease a new EV for two years, then upgrade. This leaves a bounty of unwanted almost-new electric vehicles.


“Two-year-old EVs cost less than half as much as buying them new,” said Steil.


Many of the used cars at GoElectric are priced under $20,000, with the low-end closer to $15,000. Even a high-end electric BMW with improved range comes in about $30,000, compared with the $65,000 price tag to drive it off the lot brand new.

Thanks to their reliability and incredible efficiency – accentuated by high gas prices versus Alberta’s cheap electricity rates – electric vehicles can be as much as 10 times cheaper to drive than a gas-guzzler. Steil spends $20 a month on electricity for his electric vehicle and drives 80 km each day.

Along with sales staff, GoElectric also employs mechanics trained to service EVs, although one of the benefits of electric vehicles is their low maintenance demands. Of the 10 most common repairs to conventional gas cars, none apply to EVs. In addition to the cost savings, electric vehicles are much more responsive and quieter. But Steil encourages people to test drive an EV to find out for themselves, and get what is known in the industry as “the EV grin.”

Steil and Lloyd are confident they will meet their goal to sell 200 EVs per year. They also want to add 70kW of solar panels to the roof of the dealership to power a quick charging station for electric vehicles.

But their aspirations don’t stop at the used EV dealership: they still want to help people convert their cars, bikes, quads and boats to electric, and will be opening a 7,000 sq. ft. space in the dealership’s basement, dubbing it The GoElectric EV Underground Makerspace.

 “To continue converting our own vehicles, and help others convert their vehicles themselves is where our real passion lies,” said Steil.


Learn more about GoElectric here.

For more information on how to undertake your own clean tech project, check out the resources page.

Submit your new energy story here.


Up to Speed: Youth Pushing Boundaries of Vehicle Technologies

20180422-DSC_0605.jpg

Up to Speed: Youth Pushing Boundaries of Vehicle Technologies

The University of Calgary Solar Car team and the University of Alberta EcoCar team are two great examples of Alberta students taking hands-on action to teach themselves and their communities about renewables and clean technology. These student groups design, build and race solar electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in national, continental and international competitions.

University of Calgary Solar Car team

IMG_5395.jpg

The University of Calgary Solar Car Team aims to participate in several competitions, but primarily in a three-day race in America. The team is made up of 65 students in four main undergraduate subteams: Mechanical, Electrical, Software, and Business. Engineering Project Manager, Morgan Grab, says one of the team’s main objectives is to involve students in every step of the design, build and troubleshooting process, giving them hands-on experience through working on an electric car and with solar modules.

Elysia Nice Render (2).jpg

Business Project Manager Sarah Lam appreciates how the team enables her to empower other people and connect to her community. She says through its outreach, primarily classroom presentations and talks, team members feel as though they are able to “generate excitement about the possibilities in energy that we will have in the future,” and to teach younger students about the basics of renewable energy and car design. They also engage with the larger Calgary community by showcasing renewables as a viable and tangible option for Albertans. Grab says that by working on solar, they show “it’s not in the background or overseas, but it’s happening here, in the heart of Calgary.”

University of Alberta EcoCar team

20180422-DSC_0900.jpg

The University of Alberta EcoCar builds two hydrogen fuel cell vehicles: an urban car that emulates the look of an normal car, and a racing prototype. They compete at the Shell Eco Marathon, a continental efficiency competition in the U.S. Their team is composed of undergraduate and graduate students divided in six sub-teams totalling around 80 members.

20180422-DSC_0820.jpg

The team engages with the community through showcasing their cars at events, going to schools, engaging with political figures, university alum, and staff. Many students are drawn to the group as it allows them to practically apply their degree. Mechanical team lead, Shivam Jasawl, sees the benefit in participating in design and redesign cycles. Shivam says working on EcoCar gives him a chance to “apply what I am learning about, make my own assumptions and test them, and if everything I assumed was completely wrong, I get to ask why was it wrong and iterate it.”

“If the members of EcoCar continue to work in Alberta, we can take the principles we have learned about sustainability and efficiency and apply it to wherever we work in the future,” he adds.


These groups show things can be done differently, and students are ready to be a part of, and maybe one day lead, this innovation.

“This is oil country. When people hear that students are doing something different with hydrogen in Alberta, it makes an impact,” Shivam says.

As Grab puts it, “it’s always in the forefront of our mind that we can do things a different way. I hope that we can be that spark, that starts that innovation and gets people’s minds going about renewables. We want to show that it is possible and that there is an alternative.”


For more information on how to undertake your own clean technology project, check out the resources page.

Submit your new energy story here.