Working with Minddrive mentors, a group of at-risk teenagers has restored a beat up 1967 VW Karmann Ghia and converted it to battery-electric power. The newly-painted and freshly-buffed vehicle will shortly begin a rather interesting journey from Kansas City to Washington. The car has been fitted with a device that monitors social network traffic relating to the project and for every tweet, like or share registered, battery juice points are generated. If there's no social buzz, the car doesn't go anywhere.
Last year, Minddrive mentors helped a bunch of at-risk high school students from the Kansas City area to convert a donated 1977 Lotus Esprit into a sporty two-seater electric vehicle. The Project Lotus team then embarked on a coast-to-coast road trip across America. A tough act to follow, but the latest electric conversion project from the non-profit educational program adds a novel twist to the proceedings.
Students and mentors have reshaped and restored the once battered, rusty shell of a 1967 VW Karmann Ghia and whipped it into the shiny new battery-electric vehicle you see below. As with Team Lotus, a road trip has been planned to show off the car and help raise awareness about Minddrive. This time, though, the power of social media will determine whether or not the Ghia makes it all the way from Kansas City to Washington.
The vehicle has been fitted with an Arduino device that's designed to monitor social networking activity relating to the project. The number of tweets, likes, views and shares on the social media channels of Minddrive and its sponsors will effectively control whether the car's motor engages or not.
A follow on Twitter will be translated into 5 watts for the Ghia. A mention, retweet, reply or the use of the #minddrive hashtag results in 3 watts being added to the pot. Facebook gets in on the action too, with each "like" equivalent to 1 watt, but if you comment or share a post about the project you'll generate 3 watts every time. Instagram photo tags are also worth 3 watts, as are comments, but likes of posts on the project only stump up a single watt.
Minddrive has created a promotional video about the Ghia project, which you can see below, but we're also providing the YouTube link since every view is worth 3 watts.
There's also a petition running which calls on the current administration to help incubate and support organizations like Minddrive, and for everyone who adds a signature, 10 watts is added to the meter.
"The Social Fuel Tour takes education out of the classroom and on the road," Minddrive's founder and CEO Richard Stephen Rees is quoted as saying in the project's press release. "The goal of the tour is to start a national conversation about experiential learning. The education system in America is broken, and programs like Minddrive are helping to transform the education system outside of the political gridlock."
A 20-strong group of students will be accompanied by mentors for the duration of the trip, which kicks off tomorrow at a press conference to be held at Kansas City's Union Station. Representatives from the VML marketing agency in Kansas will also be on hand to support the Tour, while also monitoring social engagement via the company's SEER social listening platform. The team will be stopping off at numerous points along the route, including Springfield, Indianapolis, Akron and Pittsburgh, to share their story with locals, and strike some poses for the media.
At the time of writing, the Ghia project has already attracted nearly 166,000 watts from the various social media channels.
Later this year, the team hopes to complete the first Series II production prototype based on the Ghia. Designed as a kit car for low speed urban travel, the vehicle will have a range of 30 miles (48 km) and be capable of a top speed of 45 mph (72 km/h). The first car should be ready by October and Minddrive reports that orders have already been placed.