Sonoma County Office of Education

Partnership allows students to build electric cars in the classroom

10/14/2015 -

Sonoma County students will now have the exciting and rare opportunity to build an electric car, something made possible by a collaboration of the Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE), the Career Technical Education (CTE) Foundation, Switch Vehicles, Inc., and a presenting sponsor, Sonoma Clean Power.

This cutting-edge design and manufacturing program is called The SWITCH Lab™. It is meant to help local youth to develop awareness, knowledge and skills around clean energy and STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). Four schools from across the county have been selected, through a competitive grant process, to participate in the “Clean Energy Education through STEM Learning” program, which provides instructor training, materials and curriculum for students to design, build, and maintain street-legal electric vehicle (EV).

Sebastopol-based Switch Vehicles, Inc., developed the program, which teaches middle school, high school and college students EV fundamentals.

“We’ve successfully deployed this unique education program in numerous schools throughout the U.S. and are thrilled to finally bring the program to Sonoma County,” says Peter Oliver, CEO of Switch Vehicles, Inc. The company has discussed the idea with SCOE and local schools for some time, but while there was interest, there was no funding to go forward.

That changed this year when SCOE partnered with an anonymous donor to fund the first program at Analy High School. Then, in June, Sonoma Clean Power sponsored the EV program through a $150,000 donation to the CTE Foundation.

“The SWITCH Lab education program directly aligns with our goal to promote widespread adoption of electric vehicles in support of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Geof Syphers, CEO of Sonoma Clean Power. “It’s great to see schools motivated to participate in this innovative approach to education and we’re happy to be a part of inspiring the next generation toward a clean energy future.”

The CTE Foundation and County Office of Education designed the process locally with plans to distribute the kits to as many as ten schools countywide over the next two years. The CTE Foundation is seeking to match the Sonoma Clean Power sponsorship in order to meet the two-year budget of $400,000.

Sonoma County schools were invited to apply for the Switch Grant through the CTE Foundation – each applicant was asked to demonstrate how they would effectively implement the program by meeting the criteria of a “Model CTE Program.” In addition to providing the technical training, Model CTE Program elements include: showing how the CTE class integrates with a core subject/teacher in math, science, English or history; identifying ways to engage with local companies; and exposing students to the variety of viable career opportunities in the clean energy, green technology and automotive industries.

The four schools chosen to participate include:

  • Santa Rosa High School, Auto Mechanics 2 & 3
  • Petaluma High School, Engineering/Automotive Programs
  • Archbishop Hanna High School, Vocational Arts & Environmental Education
  • Healdsburg Junior High School, 8th grade Robotics

For more information regarding the CTE Foundation, the competitive grant process and/or to support the Switch Grant program, contact Kathy Goodacre, Executive Director,, visit, or call (707) 537-1679.

For more information about the program, curriculum or training contact Stephen Jackson, Sonoma County Office of Education at (707) 524-2720,

To learn more about The SWITCH Lab education program contact Peter Oliver, (707) 975-2700, or visit