Fueled by tweets, SM East senior helps group drive from K.C. to D.C.

By Chris Heady

Andrew Treas with “Ghia” outside Union Station before the Minddrive trek to D.C. began.

Apparently social media isn’t just the voice of today’s youth. It’s also their fuel.

Last week SM East senior Andrew Treas drove from Kansas City to Washington, D.C., in an electric car he helped build that was powered by what he and an organization called Minddrive call “social fuel”: fuel from tweets and Facebook likes.

“It’s a really crazy idea, it’s insane how we even put it together,” Treas said.

Minddrive is an after-school organization that helps Kansas City-area students learn about science and engineering. The Minddrive project Treas participated in was named “Ghia” after the car they restored and drove — a 1967 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. Work on the project began last October and was completed just before the drive began May 31. The car’s battery system was connected wirelessly to a server that measured the amount of buzz the organization was getting on social media. If the social media buzz dipped below a certain level, the engine was programmed to shut off. But thanks to plenty of social media chatter, Treas and his teammates had enough juice to make it to D.C.

In the lead up to the drive, Treas worked on the more mechanical parts of the car, like the brake system and transmission. He also was one of the main helpers when the car’s motor burnt out just outside of Pittsburgh.

The day he arrived in D.C., June 6, Treas spoke to members of Congress on the House and Senate Education and Science Committees and their staffs about Minddrive in a presentation called “Driving Education through Innovation and Technology,” giving policy makers a close up view of electric cars and the value of organizations like Minddrive.

“I was basically talking about my point of view as a student and just explained the benefits of the program, how I’ve benefited, which is a lot,” he said. Treas credits the program with boosting his performance in school — his grades have improved exponentially since he joined the organization.

Treas was one of five speakers at the event, which was hosted by Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II, and included speeches from Charlie Garlow, the President of the Electric Vehicle Association of Greater Washington, D.C, and Dave Goldstein, the President Emeritus Electric Vehicle Association of Greater Washington, D.C.

Treas has been apart of Minddrive since January and doesn’t plan to leave the program anytime soon.

“After I joined after Christmas break, I was really excited because I didn’t know there were any programs like this,” Treas said. “And I was impressed at what high skilled work they were doing.”

Treas plans on attending college after his senior year and wants to stay in Kansas at either Kansas State, Pitt State or McPherson College, and can see himself pursuing a career in either engineering or automobile restoration or helping with organizations like Minddrive.

“It changes a student so much and I feel like if I can do that it could be well worth my time,” Treas said.