Tinkerer puts wood-fueled car into drive for shot at nationals

Grade 8 student amazes parents and teachers with his ingenuity and mechanical prowess

Charley Smith

Charley Smith

Charley Smith is a hands-on kind of kid who thinks way outside the box when it comes to designing and building things.

In fact, the 13-year-old Grade 8 student leaves most adults, including his parents and teachers, shaking their heads at his accomplishments.

“Charley doesn’t watch much TV or play video games, he spends much of his time out back building stuff, that’s his life,” said his father Darick who noticed his son’s talents at a young age.

“He’s also very motivated and if he can’t get stuff working he’ll keep going until he does.

“He’s quite ingenious and he’s got about eight projects on the go out back right now.”

Whether it’s repairing a neighbour’s chainsaw or tweaking the components on his wood-fuelled car not a model or prototype but an actual vehicle it seems no challenge is too tough. The car with its various pipes, heating elements and other gadgetry protruding from different ports, looks more like something from the movie Back to the Future.

Using wood pellets for fuel, it’s not very fast but extremely efficient and earned Charley a spot in the regional science fair championships at the local competition last week in Summerland.

Parked in the backyard of his parents Duncan Avenue East home, Charley did all his own plasma cutting and welding on the vehicle using the welding equipment he got as a Christmas present.

“The idea for the car came when I was looking up information about engines running off steam,” said Charley.

“So I started messing around and I came up with this.”

“Where the ideas come from is that I’ll be looking on the internet at different things and I think, ‘well, I could do this to that and add this to it and make it do that with the idea to make stuff better than what I see.’

“Everyone knows where I am.

“I’m usually out back building. Some of my friends think I’m nuts and some of them think it’s awesome but I love being able to build something that I can go out and have fun on or fun with.”

In the summer months when he is not in the shop Charley can be found at the Penticton Speedway racing cars, his other passion.

He has even built his own Go-Kart with a 500 cc engine which dad has not yet let him try out.

In addition to his mechanical abilities, out of necessity, he has become a good entrepreneur to get the money he needs to buy his materials and vehicles.

Purchasing the car involved trading a go cart for a Sea-Doo watercraft and trailer which he sold for a handsome profit.

Not surprisingly, Charley’s principal at McNicoll Park Middle School, Lloyd Lindsay is very proud of his young student.

“He’s a quiet leader within the school and is looked up to by many students and staff members for his abilities and his desire and passion,” said Lindsay.

“We’re lucky to have him and he’s going to do great things that boy.”

The regional science fair is April 12 in Kelowna at which Charley will be hoping to earn his second consecutive trip to the national finals that this year are in Windsor, Ont., May 10-17.



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