Driven: PS Academy Takes on a Project to Carry Them Forward
Tom Burick’s tech class at PS Academy in Gilbert, AZ, is no stranger to ER2, but we’ve got to say, their most recent achievement has us blown away. Generally, they have received aging devices from ER2 to learn from during “Tear Apart Tuesdays,” and we’ve been amazed to see what these kids can master in just a short amount of time.
ER has been donating the tech to Burick’s class, which takes the devices apart one piece at a time, and reassembling them to perfection. The enthusiasm in his class he says is thanks in large part to ER2’s long standing partnership, which has prepared them for the next step. And it’s a big one.
Burick felt his students, who fall within the autism spectrum, were ready to take on a “major, major project.” After pitching a few ideas to the students to build various machines, the clear winner was the construction of a working and driveable Tesla Cybertruck. The project would involve the class of 70 students over the course of six months.
That was ambitious enough, but along came an invitation by Tesla Drivers Club in Scottsdale to showcase their project at the Concours in the Hills event in Fountain Hills, AZ. To take part in that meant the class had just 28 days to build, test and finish the mini version of Elon Musk’s much awaited, and much delayed, Cybertruck.
However, when Burick presented the challenge to his students, the resounding response was “We’re up for it!”
Spending evenings, weekends and whatever other time they could afford, the class had the support of parents, friends and the school itself, which enabled the class to gather the materials needed to finish, on time. The foam “skeleton” is much lighter than the spacecraft metal that covers Musk’s version, but the electric engine (similar to what you’d find in a tot-sized Jeep) makes the truck drivable. The 400-watt sound system is nothing to scoff at, either.
The project was so much more than about skill and teamwork, Burick said.
“The real upside is that it allows our students to see just how capable they are. As we got to the end of the project, the kids began saying, ‘We did something really special here,’” he said.
Burick said that as the students sat among $100 thousand EVs at the Concours, they weren’t treated any differently, which was also important to them. The running joke became that they got their Cybertruck to market much faster, adopting the slogan “immediate delivery available.” Their appearance garnered media attention, both locally and across the industry.
The story doesn’t end here, though. To the contrary, Burick feels that this is just the beginning, and it sets the standard for future projects, especially as this one has garnered numerous interviews and media coverage.
“We’re at the point where we can’t stop now,” Burick said. “I want to buy flash drives in bulk for each student to have this project documented and provided so they can add it to their resumes.”
In addition, Burick is hoping to partner with someone to help upgrade the engine from the child-size one currently powering the vehicle. There are also plans to add more electronics, working lights, and a center-dash screen. For now they are working on building a small float to feature it in local parades, but having the truck run the route on its own would provide a bigger impression, and he’s actively seeking someone to partner with in order to make that happen.
It’s no doubt the truck, and the students who built it under an impossible timeline, have already made an impression all on their own, changing perceptions about what “ability” means.