As 2010 comes to an end, we take a look back at the remarkable journey the West Philly Hybrid X Team made in the Automotive X PRIZE. Through the leadership of Simon Hauger, the intense involvement of the staff of the Auto Academy, the technical expertise of our Drexel students and the amazing support of our friends, family and supporters, we had a year we’ll never forget. We hope you’ll share in our recollections and join us as we plunge into our 2011 adventures.
Weekends in May and June are extremely eventful and always jammed packed.
Prom. Graduation and graduation parties. Working on hybrid cars in the shop.
(For the record: these are not listed in order of importance.)
Many of the seniors at the West Philadelphia Automotive Academy attended their senior prom on Friday night at the Hilton Hotel on City Line Ave. The young men were handsome, and the young ladies were lovely. The seniors of all the Academies (Business, Urban, and Automotive) celebrated a "Night in Hollywood." I would say the colors of the evening were red and purple. Jacques Wells, one of our mechanical members of the team, wore a bright red vest and white tux. The white tuxes are amazing. He looked so distinguished. Momo Shen was beautiful. She is on our public realtions team and wore a black sparkle A-line dress. She looked perfect. Her date, Maalik Wolfe, wore a black suit with a red shirt and black tie.
A couple of the seniors on the team didn't want to go to prom. Justin Carter said that since he was going to another prom with his girlfriend/shawty/beau that he felt like he didn't need to go to his. Sekou said that since it wasn't at a club that he didn't want to go. They both attended a fundraising event for the Schulykill Center that Friday night with Ann Cohen. (For the record: the event was not held at a club.)
Prom is very overwhelming. It could just be the worst and best thing about high school. It is an unrealistic night. I remember my junior and senior proms were just awful. I had to ask three boys to my junior prom before one said yes. That is so sad. I wouldn't even be able to tell you the last name of my senior prom date. But I always loved my dresses. The dresses were the best. Yet, they are so expensive. Now, there are all these amazing websites that allows you to donate your prom dresses or old bridesmaid dresses. The material is reused.
It was just so nice to see Momo and Jacques really happy. Ms. Hanlon, Ms. Ojeda, and I chaperoned for two hours and took tons of pictures. It was really nice to see them dressed up and happy. These next couple weeks for our seniors are going to be hard. We have seniors that are not on target to graduate. We have seniors that are giving the teachers are hard time with last minute assignments and exams. Some of them are terrified about what their summer and fall are going to look like. Others cannot wait to leave Philadelphia and start at Penn State campuses and other colleges and universities. Many of our seniors are going to summer sessions for CCP.
The next morning, Saturday, the shop was full of bodies. There is a tremendous amount of work to be done on both hybrid cars. Many of the guys were in the shop with Hauger and Co. Ann and Anita worked with students about fundraising ideas and sending out thank you notes to our sponsors and donors. I was in Baltimore, Maryland at a bridal shower for my cousin Katie. She is getting married in September. I know her china plate pattern.
Weekends in May and June are extremely busy. The weather turns warm and school is almost over. Ann, Simon, and I talk a lot about the students and how are we going to keep them focused through these next couple weeks. I think if we keep having more successful days like Saturday, we don't need to work much about student involvement. It will just happen. If our schedule during the week remains as busy, the students will have enough activities to go to keep them out of trouble. Outside School Time, Kaplan SAT, Tuesday meeting, and Saturday School happens every week.
And prom is over. The X Prize can regain its status in our lives.
Ride or Die
Upstairs, Downstairs was an award winning British TV show that aired on public television during the 1970s. It detailed the lives of servants, who lived downstairs, and their wealthy employers, who lived upstairs. The story is set shortly after the turn of the 20th century and the great historic and social happenings of the time are integrated into the story. At Auto, we have our own version of upstairs, downstairs, fraught with drama set against our 21st century urban landscape.
The Academy of Automotive and Mechanical Engineering is housed in a two story building a block away from West Philadelphia High School. On the ground floor we have three auto shops and classrooms. One is for body work and the other two are devoted to auto technology, where Ron Preiss and Jerry DiLossi teach. The West Philly Hybrid X Team works in the center shop.
Upstairs are all our academic classrooms, a computer lab, offices and a cafeteria. Some students do really well on both floors. Others have a very distinct preference for one or the other. Some kids are adored by their academic teachers and are rude and disrespectful to their shop teachers. Some kids will do anything in the world for their shop teachers and mouth off to their academic teachers. There are constant stresses between the floors. There are also stresses in the community that make their way into school.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that more than 50% of African American teenagers are unemployed. In Philadelphia, the overall unemployment rose to 11.2% in February, more than double what it was in 2007. Barely 50% of students entering Philadelphia public schools graduate in 4 years. The dropout rate is staggering.
In spite of all of this, we have a wonderful group of students who work with us on the EVX Team. We don’t mean that they are all perfect students with perfect report cards and test scores. They are not immune to the problems of the city or those of urban education. We mean they are wonderful to work with in our after school program. We get to see them as young men and women who work on cars, write letters, deliver speeches and blog.
Sometimes, like a TV show, drama and emotions boil over. For the kids and the adults, it’s an emotional rollercoaster.
We had a real Upstairs, Downstairs day today. Downstairs, teachers and students worked into the night to get our cars ready to go to the Michigan International Speedway. Upstairs, a fight in the cafeteria, spilled over into the hallway necessitating the presence of the Philadelphia Police Department. I’m not even sure that everyone downstairs knows the scope of today’s incident and the impact it will have on some team members.
This is real life. We won’t win an Emmy for today’s episode.
Michael Glover is a first-year-team member, and a junior at the West Philadelphia Auto Academy. Ann and I can’t figure him out.
He has a C or D, in pretty much all of his classes, including shop. Recently, Mr. Preiss caught him cutting shop not once, but twice. I guess the shop doesn’t have what the corner store does.
He falls asleep in my class about once a week. I have his mother’s cell phone number saved in my phone, and I recently sent her a picture message of her son sleeping in my class. It was probably one of the greatest picture texts I have ever sent.
When interim reports went out, Michael was in shock to see such low grades. He couldn’t understand why the majority of his grades were low D’s, and in my case an F.
“Michael, you never do your homework. You never have your books for class. Sometimes you don’t even have a pen.. The only major assignment you completed was the four stanza poem with metaphors. And you didn’t even write four stanzas. And you wrote similes!”
Yet, Michael does exceptionally well after 3:04 p.m.
He is an amazing football player. He was a great asset to the team this past fall as an offensive linebacker. He did very well in the field and worked very hard in practice. He loves football so much. He cannot wait for the football summer camp in July.
When football season was over, he joined the West Philly Hybrid X Team. He was simply looking for something to do after school. Many of the students on the team fall into this category. They enjoy automotive and working with the teachers and teammates. Most of the students don’t want to go home right after school.
Yet, Michael has a tremendous family base. His mother is very supportive and is in constant communication with his teachers. I know. I talk to her about once or twice a week. His father stops by the shop to check in on Michael. Sometimes Michael doesn’t do a great job of letting his parents know his schedule when we are in the shop late into the evening. When that happens, they come looking for him.
Michael may be one of the only students on the team who realizes all the exceptional opportunities provided for him. He said in an interview that he joined the team because he thought this could be a way to get into college. He also said that he is pretty much as famous as all the influential people the team has met, and doesn’t see the big deal with them coming to our shop.
He thrives on Simon’s lectures on aerodynamics. He loves the science behind the cars and is working very closely with a Penn student volunteer on researching ways to make the cars more aerodynamic. He is the one who found a more aerodynamic windshield that the team is looking to buy for the cars. The same day he left for the corner store during sixth period, he stayed with Edgar (the Penn engineering student) until five o’clock to research a contraption he could build to put on top of the GT to lower wind resistance.
When the gear heads on the team stumble over the name of a car part, a specific about the hybrid technology, or the effect of rolling resistance on fuel economy, Michael has the answer. Without fail. Every time it happens – which is frequently – we’re floored. This is why Ron Preiss says Michael should major in EV.
Ann and I spent an entire evening about two weeks ago talking about Michael Glover and his idiosyncrasies, and we still can’t figure him out. He is the reason why high school curriculum should be restructured, the school hours reworked, the menu in the cafeteria overhauled and football mini camps should be scheduled throughout the school year. We also need to trust in our students’ abilities some more.
Last thought: I was so frustrated with Michael one day that I called my mother and had her speak to him. Whenever a student is giving me a particular hard time, I call my mom in the middle of class and have her speak to him/her. Last year it was Rameak Taylor. This is year, it is Michael Glover. My mother is a force. She yells more than I do. She works at a middle school in Maryland. Her lunch is during my fourth period with Michael. Convenient. Even after their conversation, Michael still didn’t do his homework that night and didn’t bring his book to class.
We are stumped.