The Harbinger Online

Senior Builds, Drives Car Fueled By Social Media

Senior Andrew Treas has been trying anything for eight days to calm his nerves; nothing works. As he stands behind a podium on Capitol Hill, his nerves are bouncing around more and more. All of the members of Congress, the Congressional Committee and the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) alliance watching him aren’t helping.

Its going to be okay. Go over all your main bullet points. Make sure to add a lot of information.

Treas takes a deep breath and repeats this over and over: he is ready to begin his speech. As he begins he talks about the 1967 Karmann Ghia that he helped build with the other MINDDRIVE students. He talks about experiential education, how he has benefitted from it. He talks about his part in MINDDRIVE as a student. He talks about the program that has changed his life.

*   *   *

MINDDRIVE is an after-school program that offers hands on automotive education to students across the Kansas City metropolitan area who are mostly considered “at risk” as well as students who join voluntarily. Its main goal is to inspire students through the use of experiential education where students learn through hands-on training. The program serves around 36 students and offers them classes automotive design and communications.

Treas first found out about MINDDRIVE through senior Daniel Jackson, another student in the program. After hearing Jackson talk about building electrical cars in their math class, Treas knew he wanted to get involved.

Treas visited MINDDRIVE’s headquarters at the end of first semester last year; after that first visit he knew he needed to keep going back. For Treas, MINDDRIVE offered him the perfect environment to fuel his main interest: cars.

“I’m just mechanically inclined I guess,” Treas said. “I can fix a lot of stuff, I think it’s in my blood.”

Since that initial visit, Treas became a regular at the MINDDRIVE headquarters. He started going at least one to two times a week, for four hours each visit. He started spending almost all of his Saturdays from 9 a.m.–1 p.m. in the automotive class stripping down cars then building them back up.

Treas’ main project was working on a 1967 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. He and the rest of the MINDDRIVE students started to convert the car to be powered by social fuel — electricity generated by interaction on different social media outlets. Tweets, Facebook likes and Instagrams were all entered into a data counter that would convert this activity into electricity. A tablet was also placed in the car so the students could keep track of how much social fuel they had.

The MINDDRIVE students also worked on restoring the entire body of the car and painting it light blue. Treas thought the main challenge was working on the back of the car. Because the Karmann Ghia was a rear-wheel drive car, all the batteries and engines were in the back. Treas had to help drop the motor out of the car and pack all the components back into the car’s tightly packed frame.

To obtain the social fuel, Treas posted links on his Facebook and messaged his friends who would be interested. MINDDRIVE also got attention on Twitter and YouTube. One of their YouTube videos has over 100,000 views and they have been retweeted by Richard Branson, the CEO of Virgin Mobile. By June, the group had over seven times the social fuel they needed to drive from Kansas City to Washington D.C.

By working with MINDDRIVE, Treas started to feel motivated again for the first time in months. MINDDRIVE helped give him the push to boost his GPA from a 2.5 to a 3.5 in one semester.

“I wasn’t very smart and I got terrible grades before [MINDDRIVE],” Treas said. “Without it I don’t think I would have had the chance to go to college.”

After being involved with MINDDRIVE for two months, Treas got his first opportunity to speak on the behalf of MINDDRIVE at an automotive show downtown at Bartle Hall. He was resistant at first, he didn’t want to be on a stage, he wanted to work on the car. Treas was scared to speak in front of a crowd of 200, but he just kept telling himself it was going to be okay. He prepared a bullet list of important points ahead of time in preparation for his first speech.

After that first speech, Treas was given more and more opportunities to represent the organization. Over time he became comfortable with speeches and his nerves took a back seat.

“He acts like he’s not nervous at all,” Linda Buchner, the president of MINDDRIVE said. “He was as cool as a cucumber the whole time.”

After taking part in several interviews on radio shows and with newspapers about MINDDRIVE and giving more speeches, Treas grew accustomed to crowds and speaking. Even though public speaking wasn’t a primary fear anymore nothing could calm him down for the speech he gave this summer in Washington D.C..

Treas was worried about it when he was the first person to drive the car out of Union Station, starting the 10-day summer tour. He was still thinking about D.C. when they stopped in Ohio to tour the Bridgestone facilities.

When it was time to give his speech, Treas overcame his nerves once again and delivered his message. When it was finally over he felt relieved and accomplished.

“I get to put speaking on Capitol Hill on my resume now,” Treas said. “That’s kind of too good to be true.”

In the future, Treas wants to go to college and be able to copy a program like MINDDRIVE. He wants to be able to make an impact on other kids’ lives, just like MINDDRIVE has impacted his own.

“[MINDDRIVE] did change me a lot,” Treas said. “It’s kind of motivation and kind of happens with all of the kids. [The MINDDRIVE students] see that we are doing something big and we feel that we can do anything else.”

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Sarah Berger

Sarah Berger is a junior. This is her second year on staff and she is the news section editor and a copy editor. Read Full »

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