We were standing in pit lane at last year’s Energy Breakthrough event and we noticed something unique. It was Terang College’s vehicle they had built themselves. The project was designed and led by then Year 11 student Harrison Smith for his Year 12 Product Design and Technology project. With the support of his teammates, Harrison brought this new creation to life and learnt plenty along the way, too.

We caught up with the team at Terang College to get the inside story.

First question, how do you approach the Energy Breakthrough at your school?

Ben Dennis, Teacher and Numeracy Learning Specialist, Terang College: We really pride ourselves here at Terang on the fact that we build all of our own trikes, and have done so since we started participating in 2012. Though, I must confess, we DID buy our first chassis to get us started.

I’m very mindful of getting the kids to do as much of the work as possible – and eight years in I still haven’t learnt how to weld, myself! This means the kids involved in our EB program are quite literally forced to weld the trikes up themselves if that want to get to Maryborough.

In-Class or Out? How many students?

Ben: All of our time for EB comes outside of class as an extra-curricular activity as we have about 50-60 kids (out of a total 250) from Years 5-12 involved, so putting it in a class would be quite tricky. This means that EB has always been a lot of work, but it is absolutely worth it when you see what the kids get out of it.

We noticed one of your unique Human Powered Vehicles last year and learnt that the design was led by one of your students. How did that come about?

Ben: Last years’ vehicle was our first that was a completely original design: all of our previous designs had been modelled off the original chassis we purchased back in 2012.

Last year Harrison Smith, who was then in Year 11, led the design of the vehicle for his Year 12 Product Design and Technology project. The team discussed what they wanted the vehicle to look like and then he designed it in CAD software and the team constructed it together. He was one of three senior students who welded the trike, while younger students helped to cut and shape the various bars to make the trike.

Great, but WHY did Harrison and his team want to do that as part of his VCE? 

Ben: We are lucky to be a P-12 school here at Terang College, in that students have the opportunity to be involved in Energy Breakthrough from a young age. This has been the case for a number of students, including Harrison, who has been involved from the very beginning as a student in Grade 6.

For Harrison, being part of Energy Breakthrough and building trikes is just what he does.

This year (2018) is a particularly big year in that, along with Harrison who has been involved since 2012, we have another four Year 12 students who have been involved since 2013. Put all of that together and you could say we have kids with 36 years of Energy Breakthrough experience all finishing at the same time.


What do you think your students learn through the EB program?

Ben: Overall, the kids learn a massive amount from being involved in the EB program.

We have a significant fundraising program that runs throughout the year to help pay for the campaign and through this the kids get to develop a whole other range of business and event management related-skills. We try to cover as much of the costs as we can through these events, as well as through our sponsors. Typical events are movie nights, trivia nights and canteens, as well as sports days, raffles and susage sizzles.

From a construction / technical point of view, the kids learn how to TIG Weld — keeping in mind that staff here at the school actually know how to do this — the kids have learnt this skill for themselves and are now passing-down that knowledge to younger EB students.

Do you find that the students make an impact elsewhere in your school, as well?

Ben: I hadn’t realised myself until a parent pointed it out, but when we have our induction of school leaders each year, in which we recognise Schools Captains, House Captains as so on, 80% of the student being recognised are ones who have been involved in EB. This isn’t because EB necessarily draws-in leaders from the school but, rather, it creates leaders and gives them the confidence to put their hand up and have a go. Amazingly, we now have a number of former students that have bought their own trikes and are competing in the broader Victorian and South Australian HPV series, so the transition certainly continues beyond school.

You now have a Primary HPV team and two Secondary HPV teams, but you used to have Pushcarts, too. What’s changed over time?

Ben: Our participation has evolved from the beginning. We started with one HPV team, then two HPVs, then two HPV and a Pushcart; to now three HPV teams and the workload has certainly changed.

You might think that it would have become more difficult with more teams, but the complexity has really stayed about the same because, with experience, we’ve all become better at what we do. I’d say, just having the three HPV teams now makes it a more seamless transition, when introducing new juniors.

The pushcarts were terrific, but just not the right fit for us as a P-12 College. It made more sense to get the primary kids into a trike. We are continually making new trikes each year and as result we ended up having an old vehicle that we could modify to fit the smaller junior riders.

EB: Do you find students are eager to continue their involvement from Primary to Secondary?

Ben: Absolutely, the kids love it. They pretty much get hooked and keep going with EB until they finish school.

And the result is that they end up forming a really close group – particularly after the event itself, each year. When a student is out there riding there is nowhere to hide and when they come back to the pits the other students are there with open arms, helping them out of the trike. They see that the rider is exhausted and sometimes they’re even crying because they’ve exhausted every bit of energy they had, and the emotion of this really shows the rider at their ‘base level’, so to speak.

I think, once you’ve shared that ‘base level’ experience with a person or group of people it creates a really powerful bond. We end up with this great dynamic, where the kids are always pushing each other to get involved from one year to the next.

EB: And your plans for 2018?

Ben: 2018 is a massive year for us. Having five long-time students involved, we have been determined to push ourselves and take our trikes to the next level. Once again, we will enter three teams but our biggest focus this year is on the new trike.

This is because we are having a crack at making our first carbon/Kevlar composite body. This process has been great so far and we have been pushing along to get our mould organised and our chassis built. Our chassis design is similar to last year, but we have obviously learnt from our mistakes from last year, too. There has been an amazing amount of thinking that has gone into the new design to make sure we can make it has good as we possibly can.

Getting our rider-position nice and low has been a big aim and we decided to move away from an adjustable seat, which we had used in the past. 

The body / fairing / canopy, itself, is our own design. I’ve always encouraged the kids to take inspiration from other trikes but to make sure that our end product is uniquely ours, which will be pretty evident when the trike is finished. Our side ventilation for rider-comfort is definitely unique.