When Tom Burick, a teacher at PS Academy in Gilbert, Arizona, told his students they had four weeks to build something that would normally take six months, they did not shy away. In fact, they embraced the challenge and wanted to show their resilience, and what they said eventually became the project’s theme: “We’re up for it!”
Tom gathered 70 of his engineers, who are students living with autism, and prepared them for the task of building a Tesla Cybertruck replica that was fully functional, but he made them aware of the test. While the project was originally slated to be completed in six months, Tom made his students aware that they would instead have just 28 days to get it done.
“We wanted to put our abilities to the test,” one of the students said.
It all started with an idea and a choice: What vehicle would be the perfect design to enter into their booth at the Concours in the Hills car show on February 4th?
“We were looking for a vehicle that was cool, fun, and exciting,” Burick told Teslarati. “There is so much hype around the Cybertruck, we thought it would be a good vehicle to build. We didn’t want to build something normal like a Corolla,” he said with a laugh.
Then it came down to execution. Working after school in the evenings, on the weekends, and whenever there was time, Burick and his team of engineers sought after a single goal: one truck and four weeks.
They started with what they call Pink Panther foam. It is a type of foam insulation ideal for crafts because it is rigid and stable, and it allowed PS Academy students to set up the chassis of the Cybertruck without worrying too much about its strength.
After the foam, the Cybertruck frame was covered in canvas drop cloth and painted with grey, water-based paint. They added some windows, then it was on to the motor, electronics, drivetrain, and more.
This Cybertruck replica utilizes lithium-iron batteries, which research by Burick and his team of engineers concluded were better for this application. They added two 12-volt motors, one to each rear wheel, and a normal motor speed controller from Amazon that is used as the accelerator. However, the students’ favorite feature does not have to do with its performance but with entertainment.
“Their favorite feature is the 400-watt audio system. It shakes the windows, and that has been their favorite feature by far,” Burick said.
Burick said that the students received help from a few local businesses and organizations that truly assisted in meeting the strict timeframe. Not only did PS Academy receive some love from the Tesla Driver’s Club Scottsdale, but Bespoke EVs helped with an initial $200 donation to get the project off-and-running, while AZ Metals, located in Mesa, Arizona, helped weld the steering system by shutting down their entire operation and taking an afternoon to assist with the project.
“If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think we would have made the show.”
A Deadline Met
PS Academy Arizona made it to the February 4th show at the Concours in the Hills car show, and over 1,000 cars, including plenty of Teslas were on display.
50,000 people attended the event, and over $430,000 in donations were received for Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
The appearances continued, with the most recent coming during Super Bowl weekend when the Cybertruck made it to the Rock-n-Roll Car Show at the Pavillions at Talking Stick.
“More people gravitated toward our makeshift Cybertruck than toward the $100,000 Teslas, and that meant a lot to us,” Burick said. “It is a testament to the creativity and hard work the students have displayed.
Far from Finished
Despite the truck making it to a few events, raising awareness for a great cause, and displaying the tremendous work ethic that the students living with autism showed, the work is far from over, Burick said.
“We’re just getting started, this is the launching point for even bigger things.”
Eventually, the team will add a rolling tech platform, adding more electronics, headlights, taillights, driving lights, a center-dash screen just like the actual Cybertruck will have, more motors, tinting, and other features.
“We want to get the vehicle out in the community,” Burick added. “We want to build a float and have the Cybertruck tow it. We’d love to have it on display in some of the local parades.”
All in all, Burick is incredibly proud of his students, who showed their resilience, creativity, and hard work.
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