Although Gladstone High’s school colors are orange and black, it is known for being a “green” school, due to its engineering technology and environmental programs and clubs that have led to GHS being named a National Green Ribbon School in 2012.

by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Pictured with the still-to-be-painted truck are Brian Esquivel, Colton Anderson, Vincent Rininger, Armand Jayne and Trask Telemanich.GHS teacher Steve Carrigg and 10 of his students are now making the school even more sustainability minded with their extracurricular club, the Gladstone Electric Vehicle Organization. They are working on converting a 1986 Chevy S10 truck to electric power.

Carrigg, an English, journalism and creative-writing teacher at GHS for 22 years, started talking to his students in March 2011 about converting a gas-powered vehicle to an electric vehicle.

“I was inspired by a book about a high school teacher in North Carolina who put together a successful vehicle conversion program in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s,” Carrigg said.

He and his students also watched the film “Who Killed the Electric Car?” made by electric-car pioneer John Wayland, who lives in Portland.

“We talked to people like John and a small group of electric-car experts in the Portland metro area who are members of the Oregon Electric Vehicle Association. They have all been very supportive,” Carrigg said.

by: ELLEN SPITALERI - Steve CarriggThe reference book the group is using is “Build Your Own Electric Vehicle,” by Seth Leitman and Bob Brant, one of the most popular books used by vehicle convertors.

Carrigg originally bought the Chevy truck, and when the conversion program got underway, the school district was able to find some funding to purchase the truck. Once it is up and running on electric power, school-district employees will drive the truck, Carrigg said. He hopes the project will be completed by the end of this school year, and that a group of students will convert a car every year in the future.

This has been a good learning experience for his students, Carrigg said, because “they are learning about a different source of energy and a cleaner source of energy to power a car. Also, teamwork and community-building come out of this kind of project.”

Paying for parts

One of the first things Carrigg did was launch a crowdfunding campaign on, a local, education crowdfunding site, in order to pay for the parts to convert the truck to electric power. That organization has helped GEVO raise $1,300 to pay for the necessary parts.

There are four major components needed for the conversion, Carrigg said: the motor, batteries, controller and a charging system.

“Free batteries have been offered by Brad Laird of RAE EV in Sherwood, but we are waiting for school district approval to accept the donation. Of course, we are very excited and hope we can move forward with these batteries,” Carrigg said.

They already have a motor and controller, but still need to raise money for a charging system, which will cost $1,500. They also need financial help or in-kind donations for cosmetic work on the truck, like paint and upholstery.

People can go to where GEVO is one of the featured campaigns to donate to, before the campaign ends on Sept. 9, Carrigg said, adding that the group is exploring putting donor names or logos on the truck.

“Even small donations add up and make a difference,” he said.

Guardsmen lend a hand

Two members of the Oregon National Guard are part of the project as well, adding to the community involvement. The partnership began in February of last year, when 80 GHS students attended a leadership forum at Camp Withycombe in Clackamas.

“During that process, the principal said to me, ‘Camp Withycombe is really something. Are there more opportunities for more partnerships?’ And she told me about Steve’s project,” said SFC Pete Fritsch, the National Guard recruiter at the high school.

That led to a partnership with Lt. Matthew Worley’s 3670th Maintenance Company, which has “some of the finest automotive technicians — we can fix lots of things,” Worley said.

The National Guard “has always been a community-based organization, when citizen soldiers come together to serve when the country needs us,” he said.

“We are always working with someone who can help. This project is exciting, has a lot of potential and is technically challenging,” he added.

“This is ground-floor stuff. A lot of people hope a partnership develops. There are a lot of resources at Camp Withycombe, with a lot of possibilities to share those resources with the public schools. There are always barriers, but we are a problem-solving organization, and we are eager for this partnership,” Fritsch said.

Student involvement

Four current GHS students and one former student form the core group of GEVO; all work on the car during after-school hours.

Brian Esquivel, 19, a 2012 graduate of GHS, was in at the beginning of the conversion process and used it as his senior project.

Even though he has graduated and is getting ready to start college at Marylhurst University, Esquivel is still involved in the project. Since he put so much time in it, he wants to see it through to the end.

“I’m interested in sustainability, in getting away from diesel and fossil fuels,” Esquivel said.

Colton Anderson, 16, owns a 1968 Ford Fairlane, so he already liked to work on cars, but is also working on the project to promote the school’s green image, noting that custodians can drive the car or the environmental science teacher can drive the car and haul all the equipment to and from work sites.

One thing that has surprised him is “people are so generous with crowdfunding; they are so open to donating.”

Armand Jayne, 16, came to the project because his father was into electric cars and renewable energy, and that caught his attention. He serves mainly as the public relations person and updates the Facebook page.

“I want to be a mechanic, and I like working on electric cars,” said Vincent Rininger, 17, adding that he was surprised by how big a process the whole thing is.

Trask Telemanich, 16, is interested in a career as an environmental engineer and hopes to learn new skills he can take further.

“I have learned how much teamwork can accomplish,” Telemanich said. “Once we get our minds set on one goal, we can make a dream happen.”

Visit before Sept. 9 to donate to the GEVO project, or email Steve Carrigg at carriggThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view

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