I was browsing Wired magazine this evening when I came across an article that reminded me how much I want to own an Aptera. You’re probably looking at it and thinking, “WTF is that?!” Some of you probably think I’m nuts. But I would bet there’s a few of you who would love to own something so unique and visually stunning that you would forego the scorn of other drivers.

Honda and Toyota have carved a path into the automobile market with their hybrid vehicles, the Insight and the Prius respectively. On their tails came hybrids of several other mainstream vehicles like the Ford Escape, Honda Civic, and so forth. In the new couple of years, we can expect to see Nissan and Chevy enter the arena with the Leaf and Volt. We’ve reached a point in time where hybrid vehicles are becoming a viable option for drivers looking to reduce their carbon footprint.

I’ll be the first one to admit that I’ve not been very good about reducing my own carbon footprint when it comes to vehicles. I drive a 1997 Ford Explorer, often without other passengers, and I fill up roughly once every two weeks. As I look at my own habits, I’m wondering if we can’t influence our students to be better than ourselves? And that’s where the idea for this unit comes into play.

Take another look at the Aptera pictured above (I’ve added more photos at the end of this post). What do you see? I see innovative technology with an eye for the environment. It makes me wonder how the youth of today see it. Do they think it’s “cool”? Or would they be more likely to stick to the tried and true? So I did a little digging through the various science curricula and located a unit that deals primarily with this kind of environmental technology. In the Science 10 Program of Studies, we find a unit dubbed “Energy Flow in Technological Systems.” Without even reading the overview or details of the unit, I knew this was the one.

I would propose looking at this unit from the perspective of electric and hybrid vehicles. It’s not fully developed yet, I just had the idea a few hours ago after all, but it might be worth exploring. The key concepts from the unit include the following:

  • Technological innovations of engines that led to the development of the concept of energy
  • Mechanical energy conversions and work
  • Design and function of technological systems and devices involving potential and kinetic energy and thermal energy conversions
  • Efficient use of energy, and the environmental impact of inefficient use of energy

If you’ve read my Mutant Nation unit proposal, then you know I’m a big believer in story-telling and constructing a narrative around big concepts and ideas. For this unit, I would steer the class towards the eventual design of their own car. They would have the opportunity to explore concepts like aerodynamics, engine systems, fuel consumption, etc. and then present their ideas in a sort of classroom auto show. Off the top of my head I can think of a couple of outside resources that would link really well to the classwork such as the annual Detroit Auto Show, automobile design firms, and vehicular engineering. If the timing were right, it might even be worth arranging a field trip to the Calgary Auto Show to see the latest and most advanced technology being employed by cars today.

As part of the design, I foresee opportunities for the artistic students to showcase their abilities to illustrate their ideas visually, as well as opportunities for the detail-oriented students to fine tune the mathematics behind their car’s statistics (mileage and such). The number of approaches to this is endless! However, I do feel that this would work best as a group project where students can pool their abilities and knowledge to create something truly wonderful.

Reading through all of this, you might have feedback of your own, and I welcome it. If you’re interested in helping to develop this project, leave me a comment, I would love to hear your suggestions!

Link: Aptera’s Site

Update: If you thought the Aptera was weird looking, check this out.