The San Marcos High School Automotive Technologies program received a surprise visit from Bill Nye at last weekend’s Earth Day Festival at Alameda Park.

Bill Nye “The Science Guy, ” a scientist who developed the popular TV show of the same name, was awarded an Environmental Hero award at the festival. He heard about the San Marcos Porsche Electric Project (PEP) and wanted to meet the group that developed it.

Nye met the students and was very impressed by their presentation. He felt the project was a great way for students to do something practical to learn more about science and green technologies.

“This isn’t a project just to build something that has no real use,” said Russ Granger, director of the San Marcos Automotive Technologies program. “This is a project to build something useful and can be used on a daily basis. That is powerful learning.”

The San Marcos High School Automotive Technologies students began the Porsche Electric Project four years ago when John Trotti donated his old Porsche 914 to the program. San Marcos parent Paul Waters advanced the idea of using the Porsche to teach alternative fuels and emerging technologies to automotive technologies students by converting the outdated gasoline-powered vehicle into a plug-in electric.

Waters did an incredible amount of community outreach and fundraising to ensure the project would be possible at no cost to the school district. His hard work paid off, and students truly benefited, when the Goldsholl family generously provided all of the money needed for the project.

Once funding was in place, SMHS auto students completely disassembled the Porsche and gave it to Prestigious Autobody, which provided the body and paint restoration. Prestigious Autobody’s donation made the Porsche as beautiful as it is eco-friendly. Schneider’s Autohaus provided the strengthened transaxle and heavy-duty braking system at no cost as well.

Students then spent the next two years reassembling, strengthening and converting the Porsche to an all-electric plug-in vehicle. Students received an amazing education and plenty of real-world experience while working on this project, which would not have been possible without the support of so many in the community.

Now. students use the PEP to help educate others about green technologies at events such as Earth Day’s Green Car Show. The students will again will be using the PEP to help educate others at Santa Barbara’s Wheels & Waves Car show on State Street on Sunday, May 19.

— Aaron Solis is activities director for San Marcos High School.