Students and teachers from West Philadelphia High School, a public high school serving one of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in Philadelphia, defy expectations as they design and build two super-hybrid cars for international competition and compete for the chance to be part of a technological revolution. In summer 2010, the high school's EVX Team raced against mega-sized auto manufacturers, multimillion-dollar start-ups, and university teams from around the world in the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE competition. The challenge: Build an affordable, 100 miles-per-gallon car. The prize: $10 million dollars. In Fast Times at West Philly High, FRONTLINE explores the viability of these cars, the potential that exists within our young people, and the prospects of effective innovation in public education.
The film is a great tribute to the work of the EVX Team, and even though we have moved from West Philadelphia to the Sustainability Workshop, we are still hard at work. We've recruited a new crew of car enthusiasts and environmentally conscious transportation fans. It's been great to have so many new students become involved. It's also a good thing we have new team members because there is always so much to do.
One of our student team members, Anita Davidson, wrote a wonderful Facebook note the day we were eliminated. It's a great read. Here it is:
Bad NewsBad news is best handled like it’s a band-aid – just rip it off. I am not going to sugar coat, fluff, or soften this news. I am going to tell it just like it is. We have been eliminated from the X PRIZE. We did not pass the efficiency tests. The focus was off by 3 mpg and the EVX GT was off by 8 mpg. “We missed by a whisker,” Preiss said in our group hug huddle.by Anita Rose Davidson on Saturday, June 26, 2010 at 12:57pm ·
Yes. We were eliminated. No wine festival for us. (But I suppose that’s for the best. We are more of a beer and Kool Aid team anyway.)
I am not writing this blog to tell you that we have been eliminated. I am writing this blog to inform you that we have not lost. And if someone tells you that we did, please kindly correct this most egregious mistake.
Indeed, we did not win $10 million, but in the past two years we have won much more – the respect of the world. That is something that all the money, gold, and oil in the world cannot purchase. (We should be a Mastercard commercial.)
This blog would be 57 pages long if I decided to list all of the team’s accomplishments (and that is just for this past week alone). I will spare you and a few trees, however, my ego does require me to share just a few.
As a team, we have won one of the single most desired human emotions from others – respect. We have gained respect on local, national, and international levels.
There is nothing like working in our shop in West Philadelphia and having neighbors and friends from the community stop in and say, “Yo! Aren’t you that high school supercar team?” There is nothing like having the mayor of your city, your home personally send you off to a $10 million competition and watch him tell cameras, press, and parents of his personal confidence in our ability to win. I know that he is just as proud of our team’s successes as we are.
100 mpg is not rocket science. Really, we are high school students and teachers and proud of it. We have the respect of the leading rocket scientist in the country, the chief technologist at NASA. He wanted to visit us. At nineteen years old, it is an understatement to say that it is “pretty cool” that your team has the respect of NASA.
There are a little less than 200 countries in the world. In the beginning of the X PRIZE there were teams entered from eleven countries. Now there are teams from Italy, Switzerland, India, and Germany, and of course, the United States. These are the countries at the forefront of the green revolution. If the article in the Popular Mechanics, published two years and then again a year ago, ranking us in the top ten most likely to succeed did not convince you that we had the respect of the world, then you should personally call up any of the teams here now and mention our name.
Our cars did not break down once, and I personally saved a team with a $500 million dollar budget from ruin by pointing out their flat tire. We can, have, and will continue to compete with the best in the world.
It is easy to say that we have such a diverse group of supporters. We haven’t done anything other than what we love doing to gain these peoples’ attention and respect. The above mentioned successes are really just perks of the job. However, most impressive to me is that as a team we have respect for ourselves. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to change a tire or even put a car together. But after two years to be able to walk away from $10 million with more hope and confidence as a team than when we started is our greatest accomplishment yet.
Thank you so much to everyone who has supported us over the years. We would not have been able to make it and will not be able to make it without your continued support. Please continue to follow us via our facebook page and website www.evxteam.org
Students will be posting blogs shortly.