Just in case you hadn’t heard, the West Philly Hybrid X Team won another major national competition. Five members of the EVX Team traveled to California in May to present the Team’s work on the Electric Very Light Car at the Conrad Foundation’s Spirit of Innovation Awards.
"Rules are for chumps." That’s what Ciera Williams said at Tuesday’s Spirit of Innovation Team meeting. Her observation came after Stefon Gonzalez asked Hauger if he ever follows the rules. Hauger told some stories but never actually answered the question. It all started in center city Philadelphia where we were engaged in a lively discussion about parking. Don’t laugh, we’re a car team. Cars and parking kind of go together.
In typical West Philly Hybrid X Team fashion we have much to accomplish this week. First, we have a huge technical report due for the Conrad Foundation Spirit of Innovation Awards. It’s due on Monday January 17. Apparently, the folks at the Foundation didn’t realize it was Martin Luther King Day when they set the deadline.
But, as we say in Philly, “It is what it is.” And it is Martin Luther King Day, which means the EVX Team will be completing a community service project instead of polishing its submission for the contest. It’s okay, though - we work best under pressure, facing deadlines. It gets our adrenalin pumping. That’s how it came to be that we had working meetings scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday to complete all our work.
Then we got a huge jolt of adrenalin that we didn’t need on Monday afternoon. The apartment complex next door to the Auto Academy – and we mean like 30 feet away – caught fire. The fire reached 5 alarms, the flames could be seen for miles, and 160 firefighters poured water on the apartment buildings all night and through Tuesday morning. The streets were clogged with fire equipment and covered in ice. Over a hundred people were left homeless. Most lost everything they owned and many lost pets. Thankfully, no human lives were lost and no serious injuries were suffered.
The Team, however, lost a place to meet when West Philadelphia High School was closed because of the disaster. Willig, Williams & Davidson, a center city law firm that represents the teachers’ union got us a conference room, lunch and snacks. I took the bus into town, Mr. Holt took regional rail, and the students took the trolley. Simon drove. Everyone but Simon arrived on time.
The problem with driving in town, aside from the traffic, is parking. If you want to park in a lot, it’ll set you back upwards of $20. If you can find a meter after driving around in circles, your time is limited by what is posted on the parking signs. Unless you are Simon, who over the course of many decades, has attempted to apply his outside-the-box thinking to parking regulations.
Simon’s incredible creativity and imagination has led the EVX Team to astounding success in the Science Fair, the Tour de Sol and the X PRIZE. He has beaten the odds in so many contests that most of us accept his assertions as to the viability of his next crazy project as gospel.
For example, let me be the first to tell you that over the next few months we will build the most efficient electric car on the market when we make the electric version of Edison2’s Very Light Car. Take that, Chevy Volt. Hang your head, Tesla. We don’t even need to talk about Nissan, Aptera, Li-Ion, Illuminati Motor Works or Zap. As Stefon pointed out you can accomplish almost anything if you are not encumbered by the rules of gravity. Life lived in the grey area is life lived to its fullest.
But sometimes, Simon’s mind comes into conflict with the misdirected, poorly intentioned, incompetent bureaucrats who write the rules. That was the case many years ago when Simon had a near-religious experience in Philadelphia Traffic Court. I’m not sure if it was a true epiphany, but Simon recounts it as a very important moment in his life. It was one of the stories he told us when he wouldn’t answer Stefon’s question about following the rules.
He concluded the story with great pride as he told the Team that he had not gotten a parking ticket in over 6 weeks. Are you kidding me? I haven’t gotten a parking ticket in about 6 years, but then again, I take the bus. I’m just not sure who the chump is.
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.