When Berkeley graduate Eric Ryan was sent by Teach for America to a hardscrabble high school in the heart of North Carolina's NASCAR country, he didn't count on Harold Miller — a big guy with a big laugh and a tarheel accent as thick as sorghum syrup — sticking his head into his class one morning and announcing, "Hey Mr. Ryan, we're gonna build an electric car." Two regional utilities had challenged a group of elite schools throughout the South to design and build battery-powered electric vehicles to be judged during a final contest at NASCAR's Richmond International Raceway. Although Ryan's underprivileged high school was not on the list, Miller managed to squeak them in. With a Ford Escort rescued from the compacter, a few hundred pounds of scavenged golf cart batteries, a local minor league NASCAR driver as coach, and the local constabulary looking the other way as the reborn "Shocker" began careening over back roads on test runs, the kids get their pasted-together dark horse to the big contest in Richmond. Electric Dreams offers drama built on marvelous small-town characters, and a story of never-say-die invention which would make North Carolina's other pioneers, the Wright Brothers, proud.
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