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A classic Range Rover is being transformed into an electric vehicle as part of a new program to inspire young women to pursue careers in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics). A group of 25 girls from four high schools in the Bendigo region are taking part in the program, with the electric vehicle expected to be finished by next year.

The project is being run by Bendigo Tech School director Graeme Wiggins. The school is part of the Victorian Government’s commitment to developing future work skills needed by young people. Wiggins told the ABC, “We're trying to create an aspirational pathway for young women who are interested in engineering, advanced manufacturing and automotive careers. And the interesting thing about this group is half were already hardcore car nuts to begin with, who were already considering careers in automotive or engineering."

LEARNING INVALUABLE SKILLS

The Range Rover was donated by Doug Peters, a community member with a passion for Land Rovers who thought the car would be perfect for the students to work on because every panel on it can be easily unbolted to be repaired or replaced. Already, in just five two-hour sessions, two thirds of the car’s body has been disassembled by the girls. As Wiggins pointed out to Planet Ark, “That's incredible when you consider that it's a couple of weeks’ worth of work for a skilled worker to do what these guys have done in less than 10 hours." As part of the project the girls will complete the restoration, refurbish the interior, assist with the high voltage conversion and rewire the 12 Volt system.

STRONG COMMUNITY SUPPORT

Doug’s enthusiasm in donating the Range Rover is reflective of a larger network of people and organisations wanting to be involved. “The community support for what we are doing is phenomenal”, said Wiggins. “We have received significant philanthropic support through Kirkland Lake Gold’s Community Partnership Program to promote Girls in STEAM pathways in the region. Industry partners Jaunt Motors will help us with the high voltage electrical conversion, and the Discovery Science and Technology Centre are providing us with space for the restoration and solar charging facilities. As well, Bendigo South East College has given us space in their technology building and also in their timetable to run the project this term.”

A SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT

Once the project is completed, the Range Rover will become a community asset that the community can hire. "The car will be charged using solar power and all the money we make from hiring the car will go back into community enterprise for young people to develop their ideas and start-ups," Wiggins told the ABC.

Working on the Range Rover project has already given the girls a real sense of accomplishment. "They really are an extraordinarily talented, intelligent and motivated bunch,” Graeme enthused when talking to Planet Ark. "And there's just so many things we're covering — sustainable transport, the topic of EVs and how we need more government support to ensure that we have an effective rollout of not only cars but infrastructure; all of the hands-on stuff that they're learning, they love learning how to use tools and solve problems. But the most important thing is that they show up and they love doing it."

Follow the team’s progress on the Bendigo Tech School website as they use their new skills to transform this old Range Rover into an electric vehicle engineered for the future of transport.

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