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Troup County School System transportation manager and former Long Cane Middle School principal, Chip Giles (right) explains to TCSS Superintendent Brian Shumate (center) how Greenpower USA race cars work on Wednesday -- Alicia B. Hill

Local Greenpower racing sponsors recognized at LCMS luncheon

Alicia B. HIll
Times-News

On Wednesday, students from Long Cane Middle School’s Cougar Strong Racing team discussed what they’ve learned during a sponsor luncheon honoring the local businesses that made Greenpower USA racing possible in Troup County.

In the Greenpower USA racing program, students build, drive and troubleshoot problems with electric cars.

The sport is relatively new, but Troup County-based Cougar Strong Racing has already seen great success in the program with team 999 recognized as the best in the nation and team 000 following close behind.

However, according to Chip Giles, director of transportation for the Troup County School System and former Long Cane Middle School principal, who was instrumental in getting the program started in Troup County, the program itself wouldn’t be possible without support from local businesses.

“We had some strong sponsors last year, and we could not have done the things we did [without them],” Giles said. “We couldn’t have had that national championship ring or the second place, but most importantly, these kids got so much out of this program, and it is going to launch them into a great career.”

The students answered questions from sponsors on how the cars work, pit stops and how to win, and they shared their favorite parts of the program.

According to Matthew Graham, who oversees the program at LCMS, one of the requirements is that the students must solve problems they encounter during races on their own, and the Cougar Strong Racing teams have risen to the challenge at races facing wet tracks and even a car’s nose cone malfunction.

Those running the program hope that those problem-solving skills will help the students for years to come, even into the working world.

“You aren’t investing in a race program. You are investing in kids,” Giles said. “This is the very best workforce development STEM program out there.”

Troup County School System Superintendent Brian Shumate attended the event, and he said Greenpower Racing fits perfectly with what he hopes for a school program to enrich students.

“We talk about a place for every kid, and programs like this create a place for these kids to engage in the school process beyond what the normal classwork is,” Shumate said. “So, not only is it a fun thing to do where they are creating teammates, and they have a common interest, but they are learning about science and technology and electrical power, electric cars, how to innovate on the spot, how to fix problems.”

Giles added that in addition to skills that could be helpful to future engineers, the program also teaches the students public speaking and business skill sets.

“I hope that this leads to the students setting a goal for themselves to aspire toward high paying professional jobs. Jobs that will sustain them as adults, sustain a family, career type jobs that we have plenty of here in Troup County,” Giles said. “We hope this program funnels our kids right into these jobs and these industries, and they aren’t all just engineering.

“There are a lot of business applications here. There is something for every kid in the Greenpower program whether they are science kids, whether they are artsy kids, whether they are the communicators. There is really something for everybody here.”

Shumate noted the role of activities after school hours — ranging from working on the cars after school to attending out of state competitions — in ensuring that students remain engaged at school.

He said he looks forward to watching the program grow and seeing opportunities expand throughout the district.

The sponsors gathered at the event already had a hand in that, and Giles thanked them for their support.

“It takes money to drive from here to Huntsville with a bunch of kids to stay a couple of nights and come back,” Giles said. “It takes money to buy all the performance racing stuff that goes on these cars.”

Cougar Strong Racing sponsors recognized at the event included Kia of LaGrange, Freeman’s Custom Windows, Trackmobile, Diverse Power, Polk Sheet Metal, Jackson Services, His ’N’ Hers Hair Salon, Norris Body Shop, Kona Ice, Lee’s Crossing Tires, Troup High School’s automotive program and Southern Carts.

“It is a program that will never stop giving good things to these kids and making them think,” Giles said. “We are hoping they can come be engineers for [the gathered sponsors].”

Gordon Cone, chairman of the Diverse Power Foundation, presented a check to the program for $10,000 on Wednesday. Diverse Power is the sponsor of the 2020 race.

All the middle schools in Troup County have Greenpower Racing kits this year, and the program is expected to continue to expand to include Troup County high schools and elementary schools, both public and private.