Thaxton NEED team explores energy

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Former student returns to teach the next generation

By John Barnhart

    A former Thaxton NEED team member came home last week to talk to the current students about Virginia Tech’s Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team (HEVT) car.
    Eli White, who will complete a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech this spring, was a member of the NEED team from 1999 until 2002 when he moved on to Bedford Middle School. He’s co-leader of the HEVT at Tech that is working on the current three-year project.
    General Motors donates a new Malibu to each participating college HEVT team and the students' task is to turn it into an electric hybrid. Safety standards must be upheld and the result is street-legal. This year marks the third and final year for the current vehicle competition.
    White already has a job waiting for him when he graduates. He will go to work  for  General  Motors   at  its  test facility in Milford, Mich.
    He said being on an HEVT is a big plus on the resume for any new engineer looking for a job with an automotive company.    
    It’s also a big plus for the automotive companies.
    “They get engineers that have experience with their product,” White said.
    White made presentations to groups of children at the school, holding their undivided attention as he described the vehicle and what his team does.
    NEED is a national program. It stands for National Energy Education Development and it’s been around for 30 years. Its goal is to increase the use of renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency.
    Viola Henry, now retired, heads up Thaxton’s NEED program which, she said, provides hands-on support for the science standards of learning. At Thaxton, children in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades are eligible to participate and Henry pairs each fourth grader up with a fifth or sixth grader. The older students are responsible for helping the younger students. This formats teaches the older students to have respect for their younger  counterparts.
    Henry said participation boosts children’s classroom performance and gets them accustomed to public speaking because they put on demonstrations for classes in the school. They also become better prepared for middle school and high school. A number of her former NEED team members have gone on to careers in science and engineering.