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NEAT collects four trophies at EV Rally

CREEKSVILLE—A wrecked “Shocker” and a soggy Saturday couldn’t dampen the drive of the Northampton East Automotive Team (NEAT).

NEAT held its 12th annual Electric Vehicle Rally on Friday and Saturday, hosting and competing against four other electric vehicle teams from North Carolina and Virginia at the Northampton County High School-East campus.

With their intrepid leader/teacher, Danny Johnson, at their side, the 18-member team managed to snag four trophies despite a nearly all rookie squad, a mishap during the circuit event and heavy rain that cancelled the autocross portion of the competition.

On Monday, Johnson said overall he was pleased with the team’s performance, though would have like to have seen his students do better on the trouble shooting event.

NEAT competed against four other teams, including Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School of Fisherville, Va., West Wilkes High School of Millers Creek, James B. Dudley High School of Greensboro and Topsail High School of Hampstead.

Johnson said the event was held at NCHS-East instead of Tri-County Airport because of desire to bring the event back to the county. Next year the team is hoping to utilize NCCAR (North Carolina Center for Automotive Research) to host the rally.

Johnson said this year’s rally included a new challenge, the circuit event, for students along side the usual (range, troubleshooting, pit crew and autocross).

According to NEAT member Tevin Scales, in this particular competition two cars face the opposite way on the track and whichever car completes four laps wins the event.

Johnson said that event was cancelled after the team’s “Shocker,” driven by NEAT’s Matthew Moore during a victory lap, sailed off the track and into a nearby fence.

After a few panicked moments it was discovered Moore was uninjured and the “Shocker,” minus a broken windshield, was fit for another round of competition.

Of the 18 students that make up the NEAT team only a few are returning students for the Electric Vehicle Program. Several of the 2007 team graduated last spring.

One of those returning students, junior Darrell Newsome said his second time around was even better.

“I’ve learned more stuff, like small cars do better in the acceleration event, but not in the range event,” said Newsome.

The lone female on the team, Amanda “Mandy” Bridgers, said the difference of gender made no difference when it came to working on the vehicles.

“Really, they treat me like one of the guys,” said the 15-year-old. “I think we should get a lot more girls involved.”

Bridgers said she joined the program because she simply wanted educate herself about cars in preparation of getting her driver’s license.

“I first took the class to learn more about vehicles in case (my car) breaks down or I get a flat tire,” she said.

Bridgers said she’s enjoyed the program and her teacher (Johnson).

“He’s a trip…that’s all I can say,” she said. “He knows what he’s doing.”

The rally drew the interest of several local officials, including Senator Ed Jones, Economic Development Director Gary Brown, Raymond K. White of the Northeast Commission, Vice Chair Bill Little of the Board of Education and Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy.

Jones spent time at the event on Friday. He noted the importance of the program in preparing students for competing in the automotive industry.

“We are preparing students for the future and NCCAR,” said Jones.

Brown took in the event on Friday as well. He said the program excites and engages students and gives them experience that will serve them through out their lifetime.

“Programs such as this are critically important to North Carolina in maintaining our ability to successfully compete in an increasingly competitive global economy,” Brown said.

Little said it was important for school leaders to show their support for not only their program, but other schools’ electric vehicle curriculums. He added it gave students a chance to apply academic subjects like math and science.

Dr. Bracy said he enjoyed his first electric vehicle rally and praised the work of Johnson and the students. He added he knew it was a special program as soon as he visited the school for the first time.

“I’m so proud of the kids and Mr. Johnson and if there is anyway we can support him as a school system we will do it,” said Bracy.

Parent Linda Martin stopped in to see her son, William Martin, drive the “Shocker” on Friday.

Martin said William has a strong interest in the automotive field as well as NCCAR and that the electric vehicle program was important to students in learning about sportsmanship and working as a team.

Martin also noted the significance of the program for the future.

“In two years we all might be driving electric vehicles,” she said.

The results for the rally are as follows:

Circuit Event:

Truck Class

1st-Topsail High School

2nd-NEAT

Trouble Shooting Event:

1st-Topsail High School

2nd-Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School

3rd-West Wilkes High School

Pit Crew Challenge:

1st-NEAT with a time of 1:08

2nd-West Wilkes High School with a time of 1:20

3rd-Topsail High School with a time of 1:22

Range Event:

Truck Class

1st-West Wilkes High School

2nd-James B. Dudley High School

3rd-NEAT

Modified Class

1st-NEAT

2nd-Topsail High School

3rd-West Wilkes High School