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London's new Zero Emissions Zone

by Fiona on April 12, 2019

12 April 2019 I London Play

LONDON: You've heard of London's new Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ). But do you know about the ZEZ, or Zero Emissions Zone?

A fleet of zero-emissions vehicles trumped London’s new Ultra Low Emissions Zone when they took to the streets on the Isle of Dogs yesterday to create the capital’s first Zero Emissions Zone. 

[More photos on our Facebook page]

Nine teams of girls taking part in the London Play charity Girl Kart Grand Prix - now in its fourth year - paraded their zero-emissions, self-made go karts down Pier Street in Cubitt Town, in advance of races at nearby Mudchute Farm. They had spent the previous four hours building their karts from scratch out of a pile of wood and wheels. Some had never yielded a hammer before, but the freshly-inspired budding female automotive designers, engineers and racing drivers could one day be designing the zero-emissions cars of the future. Many of those taking part came from some of the capital’s least affluent (and most polluted) neighbourhoods and the annual event is a rare opportunity for them to work as a team to imagine, build and race self-made machines.

The event is sponsored by the Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA) and corporate volunteers from nearby estate agency Knight Frank and Cass Business School provided hands on support.  

When the whistle blew to mark the end of four hours’ furious construction, all nine karts passed the compulsory safety inspection and got their license to race. Some were even beautiful too! The emphasis of the day is on experimentation and participation; but the hotly anticipated races were nevertheless fiercely contested!

Three heats, two semi-finals and a nail-biting final saw some serious speed, more than one ‘scenic route’ taken as drivers grappled with their steering systems, and even a few bodies on the (thankfully soft grass) track.  Two Tower Hamlets teams were among the three which reached the semi-finals along with Team Acacia from Merton. The back to basics kart from Team Roman Road, which avoided steering problems by not including a steering system in their design (!), was controversially knocked out, leaving home team Mudchute to battle it out with Team Acacia for the winning title.

But it was Acacia that won the day and Mike Falconer MTA Education and Development Manager, handed over the top award to a clearly jubilant group in a shower of sparkling grape juice. They will get to experience some serious horsepower thanks to the Henry Surtees Foundation, which donated the first prize trip to Kent’s Buckmore Park Kart Circuit, where Formula One stars Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button started out. “We are the champions!” said team member Tianna, 11. “We all took part and worked together really well.”

Awards were also given out in three categories: Hackney Marsh won the award for ‘Best Dressed Kart’ with their be-feathered, carnival-inspired creation. Lekeisha, 10 said: “This is the first time I’ve done anything like this It’s really fun, everyone is listening to everyone else’s ideas.” Borough-buddies Hackney Play Association took the award for ‘Best Engineered Kart’ with their Fire and Ice themed kart; and the award for ‘Teamwork’ was taken by south London team Tulse Hill Adventure Playground.

MTA are keen to support girls into STEM careers by a variety of means,” said Mike. “Supporting events like Girl Kart is a good example of a grass-roots approach. The MTA firmly believe that addressing gender diversity and inclusion is a key factor in addressing the skills shortages in the manufacturing industry. By supporting causes like this we also hope to change some of the misconceptions of the industry and prove that careers in manufacturing are for everyone.”

London Play director Paul Hocker said: “The Girl Kart Grand Prix is all about giving girls the chance to have fun, be free and enjoy the experience of experimenting and creating something using real tools. But on a more serious note, we are clearly going to need experts in clean technology in future – and who knows what today’s experience could’ve sparked in one of these young minds.”

London Play chair Melian Mansfield said: “Most children today have few opportunities to manipulate materials, use tools or create tangible objects like the amazing variety of karts we have seen conjured up from piles of wood and bits in such a short space of time today. It’s amazing the transformation that takes place – not just in the karts but in the participants themselves – and seeing the girls leave here thinking anything is possible. We are also very grateful to the Manufacturing Technologies Association and all our corporate volunteers for making this fantastic day possible.”

And the great news for those that missed out this time (and boys!) is that there is another, mixed event coming up in on 1st August, also at Mudchute Farm. Anyone interested in joining the fun can email for more information.

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