MINDDRIVE’S Mission Statement: To inspire students to learn through mentoring and project-based learning, to expand their vision of the future, and for them to be a positive influence on the community.

We create a safe environment for students to be creative, take some risks, and also to fail during the innovative process. We offer project-based learning and involve volunteer mentors from our community to serve as role models and to aide in the innovative process of our projects. 

Our History

MINDDRIVE is an innovative afterschool program for high school students in Kansas City. What started as a class in creativity taught by Steve Rees at DeLaSalle Education Center quickly developed into an independent not-for-profit corporation in 2010 with a focus on automotive design.

With investment from Bridgestone America, six students and six mentors began work on their first real automotive project converting a salvaged Indy race car into an electric vehicle. This project was the first of many to push the boundaries of innovation and technology for Kansas City high school students. It was during this project that a dedicated group of individuals including Steve Rees, Linda Buchner, Tom Strongman and Ridge Rees made MINDDRIVE a reality.

Co-Founders Steve Rees and Linda Buchner took the initial successes of the program and created a weekend program with not only a focus on automotive design but also creative communications. By engaging students in hands-on, mentor supported STEM related classes, MINDDRIVE has and continues to expand students’ vision for the future and support them to become contributing members of the community. During the 2014-15 program year MINDDRIVE expanded the program to offer evening classes and summer programming serving over 80 students annually. It is because of the generous support from corporations, foundations and individuals from the Kansas City community that MINDDRIVE has been able to grow and develop to the organization it is now.

What We Do

MINDDRIVE’S mission is to inspire students to learn, expand their vision of the future, and to have a positive impact on urban workforce development. The program is funded through the national sponsorships of Bridgestone, Hertz Corporation, KCP&L, American Society of Mechanical Engineers Foundation (ASME), Automobile Dealers Association of Greater Kansas City, Reliable Carriers as well as through local foundations and individual contributors.

MINDDRIVE serves over 80 students from the urban core of Kansas City, currently working with over 15 area schools; there are 32 students participating in Automotive Design Studio and 12 in Contemporary Communications, our core programs. The students choose their course and also are given the freedom to align with the particular aspect of the project that gets them the most jazzed. Mentors play a huge role in finding what that spark is for each student, then figuring out a way to inspire them in that direction.

We also offer evening classes in welding, 3D CAD with AutoDesk’s Inventor, Video Editing, Solar Lighting Design, ACT Test Prep, Financial Literacy, and “Accelerate” – A Life Skills Course.

Who We Serve

The students of MINDDRIVE are recruited (through an application process) from throughout the region of Kansas City, including Kansas City, MO and Kansas City, KS, Raytown, Shawnee Mission. We also have a few students who come from rural communities, well outside what you would call “urban.”

Our focus is on students who are “at-risk” and for our purposes, this means that they are slipping through the cracks of the traditional educational system in one way or another. Our experiential learning techniques, hands-on teaching and two-to-one mentoring enables us to reach these students in a new way, inspiring them to want to learn in their core subjects in school. We are able to address the individual student and help him or her through the blockages they may be experiencing that hinder learning.

We accept applications in August and our program begins in September each year. Our students and the parents of our students have signed contracts of understanding regarding the requirements and participation in the program. Our mentors are well-procured professional individuals who give of their time and their talent and who work to forge important relationships with our students and with each other.

About Our Cars

Currently, our cars are:

  1. A recycled 1999 Lola Champ Car
  2. A recycled 2000 Reynard Champ Car
  3. A 1977 Lotus Esprit
  4. A 1967 fully converted, electric Karmann Ghia
  5. Four more Karmann Ghias – a family that are meant to be for sale to the public.
  6. Electrathon

The two champ cars have the center tub and suspensions that were adapted to support a full-body and electrical propulsion system. The electrical components are lithium-ion batteries that total 72 and 96 volts. The first car had a 9” DC motor driving through a chain and sprocket system. The second car has a hub-drive that would increase the MPGe from 450 to 600. The cars each weigh approximately 1,000 pounds.

The Lotus Esprit was reduced in weight by about 600 pounds and fully converted to run on 96 volts using litium ion batteries. It was designed for 55 mph and had a range of between 60 – 80 miles, depending on terrain. The students and their mentors took this car on a cross country trek from San Diego, CA to Jacksonville, FL in 2012 – the first high school group to accomplish such a journey! There were 40 stops and approximately 24 presentations were made by our students, speaking to other school groups, university and college groups, environmental organizations, utility companies and the general public in small towns’ center square. Most students experienced traveling by air and swimming in the ocean for the first time, leaving an indelible impact on the memories they hold of their teenage years.

The Karmann Ghia is a beautifully designed, timeless vehicle made by Volkswagon but no longer in production. The monocoque design of the body allows for easy repairs, the interiors can be fully restored with a consumer-ready interior kit, the frame is the same as their current Volkswagon Beetle, and the space in front and back easily accommodates the batteries allowing us to leave the back seat in tact.

The students and their mentors took the Karmann Ghia on a journey from Kansas City to Akron, OH for an educational experience on tires and rolling resistance by Bridgestone, and then on to  Washington DC to meet with legislators and government officials. They were hosted by IEEE and the ASME and conducted a congressional briefing on The Hill with an audience of about 100 people. Their message was clear. Experiential, hands-on STEM education leads to the creation of important jobs and a sustainable lifestyle.

When we completed the first Karmann Ghia, it made sense to repeat the process. Everyone exclaimed how beautiful the car became! Taking a vintage car and transforming it into a 21st century all electric vehicle was worth repeating. So, we did four more! This time, we explored the Northern California Highway 1 coastline and visited America’s leaders in technology in Silicon Valley. Visiting Stanford University, Tesla, Google, Twitter, Humbolt State University, and many cities and high schools in between created an enormous sense of pride in the students’ accomplishments.

Electrathon is a national competition for high school students whereby the rules are set and parameters are upheld. The challenge is to design, build and prove the highest level of efficiency as tested in how far the car can travel in a one-hour time period.