Grant assists N.E.A.T. effort

Published 1:48 pm Saturday, October 3, 2009

CREEKSVILLE — The Northampton East Automotive Team is readying another electric vehicle to add to their fleet thanks to a grant from a small family foundation.

The electric vehicle program, based at Northampton County High School-East, was recently awarded a $9,569 grant from the Harry L. & Helen M. Rust Charitable Foundation.

The Northampton County Schools Education Foundation was notified of the grant in August.

On Thursday, the benefits of that grant were visible in the school’s autoshop as students diligently worked on a white 1995 truck. According to Automotive and Electric Vehicle Instructor Danny Johnson, his students are converting the truck to run as an electric vehicle.

“I was amazed,” Johnson said of finding a check in the returning envelope from the foundation. “This is the first grant we’ve received in some time.”

Johnson said he first found out about the grant from Adam Rust, the grandson of Harry and Helen Rust, who encouraged the electric program instructor to apply for the funds.

Adam Rust said he first found out about the program when he read Caroline Kettlewell’s “Electric Dreams: One Unlikely Team of Kids and the Race to Build the Car of the Future”, a book based on how the NCHS-East program was started.

“What was really striking to me is how this group of students did so much with so little,” said Rust in a telephone interview.

He said the foundation was set up by his grandfather who lived in Kansas City, Mo. and made a point to do philanthropic efforts in the community. Harry Rust particularly took an interest in vocational education programs and groups that help at-risk youth.

Now, Rust said, his family is carrying on that benevolent legacy with one of the key issues being education.

“I really hope they have more success with the program,” he said.

As the students work on the truck, Johnson hopes the vehicle will be completely converted by the end of this school year. Unfortunately, students in this class will not see the truck completed as the class is now only taught each semester.

“If they get it done by the end of the semester, I’m taking them out for a big steak dinner,” said Johnson.

Meanwhile, the class is organizing and preparing for the 13th Annual Electric Vehicle Rally, slated for Friday and Saturday, November 6-7 at the Tri-County Airport. There N.E.A.T. will compete against rival schools (from all over the state and some out of state) in events ranging from autocross to a pit crew challenge to trouble shooting.

The rally’s events will begin at approximately 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 6 and 9 a.m. on Saturday.

At last year’s rally, N.E.A.T. held their own, nabbing the top spot for the pit crew challenge and other top three positions in the competition.