Electrocar starts running on girl power
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Heather Heier was doing nothing more than following in her brother's footsteps.
But she started something at Wheatland-Grinnell High School in Grainfield, and now her instructor just might get his wish of fielding an all girls' electrocar team.
Heier, a senior at Wheatland-Grinnell, was joined by three female teammates in participating in Thursday's 14th annual High Plains ElectroRally at West Frontier Park in Hays.
In only her second attempt at driving one of the cars for her school, Heier finished with 51 laps in an hour, the standard measurement for determining the winner.
"I was pleased with the day," said Mark Heier, in his 17th year as instructor of the industrial arts program at Wheatland-Grinnell. "Our goal is not to go out and win the race every time, but to be still running and never stopping during the race -- and to learn from that.
"I shake their hand at the start of the race and say, 'I don't want to see you for an hour,' " he added.
Heather Heier said she liked watching her older brother, Kyle, race when he was in high school.
"I've always known somewhat about the program," she said. "When I learned what they did, actually making the car and testing it out, I thought it looked really interesting."
So Heier enrolled in the mass productions class her sophomore year, and now the team also includes junior Kylie Wood and sophomores Lakota Melgoza and Hannah Waldman.
"Mr. Heier said he wanted a girls' team, wanted to get more girls in the program," Melgoza said. "So we thought we'd give it a try."
Heather Heier, whose goal is to become a secondary math teacher, said she has learned a lot of valuable lessons in the mass productions class, ones that go beyond helping her dad, Larry Heier, "fix bailers and tractors" on their family farm.
"It's interesting to see why people design cars the way they do to make them more efficient," she said, "and I learned how to be a better driver."
"She learned defensive driving," added Heather's mother, Marilyn Heier.
While Heather Heier wasn't able to get into the top five, one of her teammates won a plaque for their school.
Wheatland-Grinnell's car No. 384, driven by senior Levi Wood, recorded 47 laps in the solar car division to finish second behind Dighton, which recorded 53 laps.
Beloit, last year's standard car winner, repeated as champs in that division with 69 laps, bettering its performance of a year ago by three laps. Hoisington was second in that division with 66 laps, followed by Scott City with 64. Great Bend was just one lap out of the top three with 63 laps, while Hays High School rounded out the top five with 61 in a car driven by sophomore Christian Wright.
HHS instructor Chris Dinkel has several seniors on this year's team but wanted to give some of his first- and second-year students some experience behind the wheel.
Hays High and several other area schools will compete again Oct. 5 at Hanston.
The rally is put on by North Central Kansas Technical College and Fort Hays State University, with its main sponsors being Sunflower Electric Corp., Midwest Energy and Western Cooperative Electric out WaKeeney.