On May 5, Tesla Motors specialists brought the Model S P85+ electric car to Ross Upper School to visit with Dr. Dave Morgan and the Innovation Lab @Ross students, provide an overview of the vehicle’s engineering and technology, and let everyone get hands-on with the machine’s features and functions. Some lucky faculty and staff even took it for a test drive (and eventually returned, if reluctantly).
“It’s great that the Innovation Lab kids get to see technology that is just ready to hit the streets,” Dave said. “It’s like our work with 3D printers. The electric car is in its infancy and about to go mainstream, and it’s exciting for the students to get a peek at these trailblazing technologies.”
The Model S is a silent, electric, luxury sports car designed for performance, environmentally friendly, and equipped with an 85-kWh lithium-ion battery and a 17-inch video display that is basically the driver’s “mission control.” It also goes from 0–60mph in less than four seconds.
After a quick run-through from the specialists, the students jumped in for a closer look and were surprised to find lots of empty space under the hood. They noted the level of detail, from the door handles that slide outward with a simple touch, to the available music, to the advanced navigation features.
Dave said he was impressed by his student’s reactions. “It was nice for me to hear them ask really good, insightful questions about the technology itself, and particularly about the long-term impact of the used batteries. They obviously realize the important fact that no energy technology is without some impact on the environment.”
Austin Handler, whose son is in the fourth grade at Ross Lower School and also a Junior Innovation Lab student, brought his own Model S to campus to join the discussion.
“The Model S is truly disruptive technology. While the automotive industry has seen improvements over the years, they pale in comparison to the level of innovation that Tesla has shown in the Model S, which can receive performance upgrades via software updates over the cellular network, just like a smart phone does,” Austin said. “It’s great that the Ross students have the opportunity to get a look inside the car that is the wave of the future.”
At the end of the day, eleventh graders Harrison Rowen and Jeong Ho Ha wheeled out their life-size replica of a Ford Model T, which they created for their Modernity project. Looking at the two game-changing vehicles, Dave summed up the experience by noting, “It’s interesting to realize how much our expectations about what a car can do and what it will look like are constrained by this 100-year-old technology of internal combustion engines. It’s exciting to see a company questioning those assumptions."