In December 2022, the Alexander and Mabel Bell Legacy Foundation proudly awarded a grant to Munro Academy’s Production Technology STEM course, giving students the green light to prototype a human/solar-powered, four-season velomobile. Munro Academy, a private preparatory school that fosters highly engaging and transformative learning experiences for its students, is located less than an hour from Bell’s beloved Beinn Bhreagh estate in Nova Scotia.
What Are Velomobiles?
Velomobiles, also known as velocars, can best be described as a “bicycle car” designed with speed and efficiency in mind. They’re generally available with two or three wheels, though some can have even more.
Thanks to the minimal weight and outstanding aerodynamics, pedaling a velomobile requires three to four times less energy than pedaling a regular bicycle. Furthermore, this higher energy efficiency can be converted to attain higher speeds and longer distances, maintaining a cruising speed of 25 mph or more.
What’s the Connection To Bell’s Work?
The Silver Dart was the first powered flight in Canada, made on Baddeck Bay in 1908. This flight occurred a mere 30 kilometers from where the students worked on developing the Velo Dart project today. Inspired by the Aerial Experiment Association and Bell’s development and testing of the Silver Dart airplane, Munro Academy’s Velo Dart Project carries on the spirit of Bell’s remarkable commitment to pursuing innovative solutions to overcome challenges.
Real World Opportunities For Learning and Problem-Solving
As a solar and human-powered commuter vehicle, the Velo Dart provides a zero carbon emissions commuter alternative with built-in exercise alternatives while completely bypassing increasingly expensive refueling. Such a project positions students to think critically about some of the extraordinary challenges facing our society today, including the threat of global warming and the rising cost of fossil fuels.
Students began in September 2022 by learning about the global warming crisis and conducting preliminary research into velomobile designs.
By December, students had completed production safety training and began initial prototype construction and design. Today, students are ready to start testing their first prototypes and installing the electric hub monitor batteries and solar panels. By the end of the school year, they hope to publicly test, promote, and possibly begin production on plans to sell their prototypes.
Bell’s Legacy Lives On Through Young Scientists
In 1859, at just twelve years old, Alexander Graham Bell invented a device that could remove wheat husks to help a local farmer improve his farming process. Bell preferred these kinds of hands-on opportunities for curiosity-driven learning to a more “traditional” curriculum, and he carried his childhood passion for innovation with him for the rest of his life.
So we’re confident when we say that Alexander Graham Bell would be delighted to see students building solar-powered prototypes that solve real-world problems and push the limits of what’s possible in education.
By taking on this project, Munro Academy’s multi-talented, diverse group of students are advancing the Bells’ spirit of innovation and humanitarian interests. These young engineers and scientists represent the next generation of innovators—and we can’t wait to see what they can build next.
Special thanks to Mr. Doug Beane, teacher and school principal, who allowed us to meet the students via video conference and see the various exceptional prototypes under construction.
You Can Inspire the Next Generation of Innovators
The Alexander & Mabel Bell Legacy Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded to preserve and protect the legacy of Alexander and Mabel Bell—and we’re asking for your help in driving our mission forward.
Our foundation advances the Bells’ legacy through increased public awareness of their humanitarian contributions and life-altering inventions. We believe that it is vital for people to learn about the Bells’ impact on society so they can continue to inspire future generations.
By donating today, you can help inspire the next generation of change-makers and problem-solvers. Click here to learn more about how you can join AMBLF in supporting the future of innovation.