Foothills Community School students showed off their most recent projects to parents and visitors at their recent open house.

“This is a time to celebrate student accomplishments and what they have worked on for the last several weeks. For this, it was our transportation unit,” said FCS Director Melanie Shaver. “We like to have our families in and have them share their progress and what they look forward to in the next project they work on.”

Students, or scholars as they are called at FCS, were tasked to think like engineers and design the next big innovation in transportation that can operate efficiently, safely and economically. Scholars had to present their project and make a model of their mode of transportation, such as CO2 cars, pinewood derby cars, solar cars and hydrogen fuel cell cars. The project integrated math, science, writing, speaking, listening and social studies.

Sixth-graders Jackson Dowdle, Josh Riddle and Christian Alvarez-Cruz worked with a soapbox car they received from East McDowell. They plan to take it to the Gravity Games later this year to race it.

“We made adjustments to it to make it go faster and more eco friendly,” said Dowdle.

Seventh-grader Chloe Phillips explained her group’s solar-powered vehicle.

“Our hopes were to make a futuristic efficient car that does not harm the environment and will help the government, too,” said Phillips. “Our car will help people get healthier.”

Phillips described different ways their solar-powered car would benefit the environment, and what the actual model would look like.

“You would have smaller roads, and without so many paved areas, you don’t have runoff, and no runoff means less pollution,” she said. “In reality, the version would be about 4 or 5 feet wide and probably 8 feet long and just a few feet tall.”

To demonstrate their project to teachers and classmates, Phillips and her group created a skit.

“It made it more entertaining,” she said.

This is the second year for FCS, a school designed to teach students through STEM-focused learning. It is housed at West McDowell Middle School and integrates sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. Applications are now available for prospective students. The deadline to apply is the end of February.

“Our first year we had a lot of different projects and ideas that came about, and our goal is to slowly increase the academic rigor as well as the product that comes out. Our students have grown and matured, and so have their projects,” said Shaver. “They have portfolios on how they started last year and where they are this year and how to improve throughout the year.”

The application period is open until the end of February. A link to apply is available at or on their Facebook page. With the application, students will submit an essay or video telling why they want to be a part of FCS.

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