Wednesday, 30 January 2013 21:30

Simon Revs up Students

Last year the EVX Team spent three days at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC. It was just us, the GT, and a couple hundd thousand science geeks.  That’s where the IEEE  interviewed Simon Hauger.

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Friday, 20 July 2012 10:54


We need much more rain.

Whenever it rains on a Friday, I always think of my college roommate Sam Hauptman. She loved rainy Fridays. She was a strong and vivacious student in one of the toughest accounting programs in Philadelphia. By Friday, she was exhausted. A rainy Friday was an excuse to slow down.

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Sunday, 19 September 2010 10:22

EVX Team Recognized by President Obama


On Thursday September 16, 2010, I accompanied 4 members of the West Philly Hybrid X Team to the White House.  We were in town from the Awards Ceremony of the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE at the same time  President Barack Obama was announcing the creation of a new initiative to increase resources for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education. His initiative is called Change the Equation.Check out the video about our visit.


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Sunday, 19 September 2010 10:10

EVX Team at McKinley Technical High School

On September 15, members of the West Philly Hybrid X Team traveled to Washington, DC for a series of Progressive Automotive X PRIZE events, including the Awards Ceremony for the winners. The first event was held at McKinley Technical High School where team members Brandon Ford and Azeem Hill presented a PowerPoint about the Team's work.X PRIZE produced a great video about our trip.

For more about Azeem and Brandon's presentation, here's the text of their presentation.

This is the underdog story of the West Philly hybrid X Team. Or the EVX Team. The high school team has managed to beat out top colleges like MIT and multi-million dollar car companies in vehicle design competitions over the last decade. But there is a whole lot more to this team than our cars. The story of the EVX Team is probably one of the least conventional renditions of the American dream to date.

Our government is leaning toward green technology and clean energy. Energy reform has definitely been pushed to the forefront by activists and by crises like the one we are witnessing in the Gulf of Mexico. Climate change has become a key issue around the world.

Urban youth in Philly face a lot more problems than climate change. Our school system is outdated and unrealistic with reforms and testing that doesn’t work.

The team was started 13 years ago to engage students around math and science in a new ways.  Since we are in an automotive school already, building a car was a good fit. We challenged ourselves to create fuel efficient clean cars that would prove how awesome Philly students from public schools are.  No one knew what we were really getting ourselves into at the time.

The first thing we did was build an electric go cart that won the science fair. We won the science fair again a year later with our Hybrid Jeep. We started to dream harder and in 2002 we built an all electric Saturn that won the Tour De Sol, a national competition for fuel efficient vehicles. That was the first time we beat MIT. Our team got a lot of publicity and respect for winning, but that wasn’t enough for us so we did something crazy.

We built the K1-Attack Hybrid -  the world’s first hybrid super car  and it was built by high school students. The car got 60 mpg and we won the Tour De Sol in 2005 and 2006. We were breaking the stereotype for the technical aptitude of West Philly High students. We proved to the world that we were edgy and we not only think outside of the box. We live there.

Meanwhile something amazing was happening. Dr. Peter H. Diamandis founded the X Prize foundation whose mission is to bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. The X PRIZE announced to the world a $10 million dollar competition for cars that can get over 100 MPGe and be safe, fun, affordable, and most importantly marketable. 111 teams entered the $10 million competition.

Multi-million dollar car companies built cars like these for the X-Prize. There were cars from Japan, India, Australia. Our team and our school were on a world stage.

Popular Mechanics magazine did an assessment on all of the teams in 2009. They compared the cars and the business plans of all of the teams and ranked our team in the top 10 most likely to win. Even though we didn’t win our plan is still sound. Here’s why.

Our mainstream car is the EVX Focus plug-in Hybrid. It will get over 130 MPGe in the city and over 80 on the highway using gas and electricity. We decided to use a Ford Focus because of the safety features and because it is made in America.

Our team members wanted to build a bigger, badder and cleaner super car that the current generation of EVX Team members can have ownership of. The EVX GT can get over 100 MPGe in the city and over 70 MPGe on the highway.

From the original 111 teams in the Automotive X PRIZE, 22 including West Philly, made it through the April Shakedown to the Knockout Stage. Unfortunately, we did not make it through Knockouts. Only 12 Teams moved on to the Finals. At the end of the Finals, only 7 vehicles remained with only one team in the Mainstream Division.

Many people cried over the disappointment, but we then started to ask ourselves...."What's next?"

Luckily we happen to have the tools to keep the West Philly Hybrid X Team going thanks to the X PRIZE. Over the summer students worked on improving the fuel efficiency of our cars. Students even created a school ideology model that correlates with the team’s principles. We are still working on making our plans come true.

Our business plan can still create jobs for displaced and jobless people who worked in the American auto industry before it collapsed. It will also create internships for high school students. We want to create a school to industry pipeline. But it starts with our target markets.

The Focus is a car for city families.  We know in city driving the car get will get over 100 MPGe and in combined driving cycles will get over 80 MPGe.  The GT is going to be sold to the more affluent urban driver who is into driving fly cars. Both of the cars will be manufactured at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in an environmentally friendly facility.

As you all may have noticed the EVX Team is not the average after school program. There is a constant flow of information and creativity between the youth of the team and the adults. Because the kids on the team have great ideas, and the adults are great instructors and support us when we try to make our ideas a reality we have accomplished amazing things.

Students on our team spend their free time building cars because we really want to learn and create. West Philly Hybrid X team members take speech lessons, go through workshops, do research, and some of us are very active in the politics of education. We come from all different backgrounds and interests and that’s what makes us special!

Our team has won many competitions on a small budget but the X PRIZE was more serious and challenging than anything we had done before. Our team members participate in our fundraising and we realize that people have to invest in our team because of what we mean for the future of education, green jobs and the future of the American auto industry.

Even though we did not win the X Prize we want to put the power of Philly youth into overdrive. We want the Philly Navy Yard to serve as the home of our green manufacturing facility and a school. The school will be a place where students will learn how to run a green business in one room and actually see one in the next.

Our school will be an economic, environmental, and educational superpower in Philly. This will truly be a school/business of the future, and an institutional role model for America.  For the world.

This has definitely been a long journey for our team. Hopefully our story will empower you students to implement your innovative ideas and create real world solutions that show youth power. Thank you for having us.

Published in Blogs
Monday, 16 August 2010 18:48

Final Presentations

Whenever you are asked to present your ideas in front of an audience, it is a pretty great thing.

Last Thursday, the students of the West Philly Hybrid X Team Summer Program 2010 presented their work and findings on two very distinct but valuable projects: enhancing the fuel efficiency of the EVX Focus and designing an “ideal” school.

Their presentations were wonderful.

Over the course of six weeks, students and adult team members worked towards common goals set by the group. Starting the summer program, nine students signed up and arrived the Tuesday after July 4. For reasons that even my mother and Ann cannot understand, we finished the program with six students enrolled. On the first day, one student, Alex, stayed for about two hours and never returned from break. Peter was absent for two days in a row and never called any of the adult team members. Danny was late three days. He was asked to leave.

Boundaries and habits of mind were established by the students and group members right away and were translated into a student contract. It was impressive to listen to the student debate surrounding bonuses and lateness policies. Each student would receive a $100 bonus for an exceptional presentation and $100 bonus for never being late.

Shamere, Alexis, Brandon, and Azeem were never late. All students who presented received their bonus.

By week two, the students and adult members began the projects’ development. All the students took multi-intelligence and personality tests that analyzed their strengths and weaknesses in the prior week. They wrote many personal reflections on where they see themselves and the team progressing.

Four major ideas were pinpointed after much debate about inventing new green technology, including a solar powered ankle bracelet. Troy Scott, this one is for you.

The students wanted to increase the fuel efficiency of the EVX Focus, build an electric scooter, design their ideal school, and a solar charging station. It was really sad to watch Ann’s hopes and dreams fall by the wayside as the students picked the fuel efficiency and school challenge. All Ann wanted was an electric scooter and a charging station. Teenagers never listen.

Justin Carter, Alexis Bland, Brandon Ford, and Shamere Palmer wanted to work on the fuel efficiency of the EVX Focus. They worked extensively with Jerry D, Dr. Keith, Jerry “Disciplinarian” Perese, and Captain Ron. It was beautiful to see them organize an assembly line for repairing and replacing the Harley. Watching them learn programming with our Drexel engineers was a poetic sight.

The majority of their presentation revolved around their learning curve working with the two cars. Brandon had a difficult task of measuring a new pulley cullet, a piece that attaches the Harley to the electric motor. Brandon used a micrometer to measure the diameter of the piece and sketched it for the machine shop at Drexel University. He operated the lathe under the guidance of Drexel’s Master Machinist and Dr. Keith and the piece fit. It worked.

What was most interesting about all of this and something that I never thought before was that Brandon didn’t receive a B+ on this assignment or even an infamous check plus. “There is no grading scale for any of this,” Hauger said after the presentation. “It either works or doesn’t. It is either 100% or a zero. Brandon couldn’t wing it and expect the Harley to work. Now the hybrid drivetrain in the Focus is working and we can continue working on the fuel efficiency.” How wonderful is this form of assessment?! It is what project based learning strives for in authentic assessment.

Like Brandon, Justin and Alexis learned a lot about what needs to be accomplished in a group project dynamic. Justin could not get the turbo out of the GT. Over the course of two hours, he removed parts and yet his hands could not fit through the tiny spaces. Alexis was able to do it. “I have to admit that there was one point that I just wanted to rip it out,” said Alexis during her presentation. “My hands are smaller and yet I still had trouble.” Justin, 6’2”, gave up the glory to a female, 5’5”.

While Alexis and Justin were in the shop, Shamere and Brandon worked on the group’s power point and researched in depth the two drive cycles, X PRIZE and EPA. It was decided amongst the group to showcase the fuel efficiency of the EVX Focus using the EPA drive cycle, because it is well known and trusted amongst car buyers. I still have a little bitterness towards the drive cycle of the X PRIZE, no lie.

The six weeks quickly expired and the group wasn’t able to accomplish getting the hybrid on the road and testing the fuel economy with the new drive cycle. Parts had to be ordered, the Harley replaced, and the students had to balance researching, learning how to program with LabView, site visits, and listening to guest speakers.

Yet all four survived. Their numbers and attendance are laudable. Even Justin Carter, who was hit by a car, only missed one day of work.

The other group really suffered so much in attendance and personnel. Peter Mong and Danny Smith both fled the group mid-way through the six week project. Danny kept showing up late, and Peter was absent for two days without calling. It was an Agatha Christi novel at best. And then there were two, Azeem and Samantha.

Azeem and Sam had a two part project: write the program plan model for their ideal school and model what an ideal project based learning challenge would look like for students attending their school. They wanted to build a green roof and test the insulation and growth rate of plants.

A key insight Azeem noted in their presentation was “being able to keep the ideals of the EVX team and find a way to transform that into a regular school day.” Both Azeem and Sam mentioned the success of the team and how they want their regular school day to follow, but they said it is extremely difficult to determine what kind of school they wanted (public, charter, magnet) so that the school is successful. They wanted to design a curriculum that enables all students to participate and flourish in a project based setting even if the students don’t like mechanics or environmental training. Sam and Azeem wanted to build a green roof because that is where their interest lies.

“We hope to develop a school and projects that would get every student involved and solve real world problems,” said Sam.

Both students talked about the team’s new entry in the Ecomagination competition sponsored by GE. This “ideal” school is an entry for this competition that looks at three different ways people create, use, and connect to energy. How can our school be as close to self-sustaining as possible? How can our building become LEED certified? How can our curriculum address humanistic concerns and possibly solve them? How can the community surrounding the school build and grow in a green economy?

Sam and Azeem have the most work left to accomplish once the school year starts. Sam graduated from the Auto Academy two years ago and is currently taking classes at CCP. Azeem is going into his senior year. One of the challenges they recognized is bringing more students on the team and working with the adult members to outline their wants and goals for their “ideal” school.

The style of the presentation was very different to the other group. Sam and Azeem read a speech while Ann controlled the power point slides. The fuel efficiency group took turns presenting the slides and used index cards full of notes. Both presentations were very well presented and proved to an audience of teacher and outside community members that there is a lot left to do with this program and this group of students.

“When we came back from the X PRIZE, the adults had the same questions as the students, ‘What’s next?,’” said Azeem. “The adults turned to us and asked us what we wanted to do and where we saw this program going. Simon mentioned the Ecomagination project, but we really talked about it together and decided on the next steps together.”

Whenever you are asked to present your ideas in front of an audience, it is a pretty great thing.




Published in Blogs
Thursday, 24 September 2009 01:00

Speech to the Congressional Black Caucus

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak with you today. It is an honor.

My name is Azeem Hill, and I am a member of the West Philly Hybrid X Team, a part of the West Philadelphia High School Automotive Academy. This is a wonderful after school program that I have been a part of since freshman year. I am now a junior and have been involved with the West Philly Hybrid X team for three years now. I am also a proud member of the Philadelphia Student Union which complements my involvement with the team because both organizations work towards building a solid educational portfolio.

Every Tuesday, I meet with Simon Hauger and Ann Cohen, directors of West Philly Hybrid. Awaiting us are exciting projects and announcements that most recently connect with our entry into the Progressive Automotive X Prize, an international competition to build cars that achieve 100 MPG.

We are the only high school competing in this world, in this world, for this multi-million dollar automotive competition for the green economy. We are competing against startup companies that have more money in their pockets than we do collectively. Our participation is no surprise to me because we are using an educational model that prompts and highlights every student’s unique strengths. This is called project-based-learning.

Years before I joined the team, this all started out as a science project that became cross circular within days.

I got my introduction to the team working with the K-1 Attack where we put a fierce hybrid engine in the body of a sports car. Being at West has its challenges and my classmates have complicated personal backgrounds, but being on this team ignores all of this and pulls together all of our strengths. That is the reason why the K-1 Attack even exists, because one of our former team members said, “Hey Hauger, these hybrid cars are decent, but why are they so ugly lookin’?” Eventually the world’s first hybrid supercar was born out of our garage in West Philly.

We won the Tour De Sol, the nation’s oldest alternative fuel vehicle competition, with our K-1 Attack. The K-1 has a carbon fiber body that is superlight but tough as steel. It goes from 0-60 in less than 4 seconds and it even gets over 60 miles to the gallon on bio-diesel. We were able to beat schools like MIT and Toyota and Honda entries because of our knowledge of hybrid technology and our understanding of consumer needs and wants. For us, this was just a precursor for all that we have waiting for us, especially with our participation in the X Prize competition. For the current team members, the K-1 was our first love, it was our first hope. It was a stepping stone to the X Prize.

The Progressive Automotive X-Prize is a $10 million international competition to build clean, super efficient vehicles intended for mass production. The X Prize foundation’s mission is to spur innovation through competition. Our mission is to win. When we win we will secure a place in the green economy for young urban people. But we’ll have more than jobs. Winning will show how young people have historically changed this country for the better. We have power. We’ve changed policy and now we’ll change industry.

Our two cars entries in the competition, the Ford Focus and Factory Five GT, will achieve over 100 MPG, emit less than 200 grams of carbon per mile into the air, and go from zero to 60 in under eight seconds. The mission of the X-Prize foundation is to benefit humanity and stem the effects of climate change through big competition. There were over 100 teams that entered in this $10 million contest. We know that after preliminary cuts, far less will remain. We are one of them. Five teams are invited to attend the launch party of the X Prize competition on October 19 in New York City. We are one of them.

We have an amazing and effective business plan to bring our cars to production in Philadelphia. Continuing education and use of green materials is the thesis for our marketing plan. People are talking about us. I guarantee you by the end of my speech, you will be talking about us, too.

Last year, the West Philly Hybrid X Team was rated number 10 in Popular Mechanics Magazine as being one of the teams that will most likely take home the big pot of cash in the competition. Since then we’ve gotten heaps of press. The team was in Natural History magazine, Rolling Stone, and American Way magazine. The team was featured by local news outlets dozens of times. Even after EPA Lisa Jackson visited our school, she felt it necessary to mention our accomplishments to high school students in North Carolina when she was there visiting. We even have a documentary being made about us. The documentary will focus more on the students’ lives than the hybrid cars.

The press and media coverage is amazing and sincerely appreciated, but none of that compares to the critical thinking and humanistic skills my peers and I are constantly learning.

This past summer the West Philly Hybrid X Team learned about the green economy and how to market an environmentally friendly car. We made podcasts to support our findings. We even made a mock party flyer to promote our cars. It was a blast. You can view this content on our website at

It’s been three years of studying , writing ,debating , and headaches and I am proud to say I’ve been involved with the X Prize from the very beginning. Now that I look back on my experiences, this thought comes to mind: If you were to go back in time and ask me three years ago when I was a freshman what I was doing with the team I would say “We are just building hybrid cars.” There wasn’t much depth to my understanding of hybrids or the green economy or even why we picked the batteries we picked. That was probably all I could tell you. Now after learning about the cars from my fellow teammates, doing work on the cars, and participating in a 15 page research document on electric vehicles, I internalized our mission from having amazing real life experiences with the team.

I was eager and excited to seek out new challenges. I liked the Philadelphia Student Union before I liked the team, but I learned both missions are intertwined and are solely about the progression of a student. They both help create students who can become part of the new global economy.

There is a missing link for whatever reason in the classroom about preparing myself for this so called global economy. Our districts are underfunded, and fifty percent of our freshmen drop out before they reach sophomore and junior year. Before I joined the student union I thought that it was okay for people to drop out if they don’t want to learn. But students are dropping out because their unique ways of thinking, working, and expressions are not being stimulated. They care about their education but even before they open a book, they are already failing.

With the team and with PSU, I never felt like a failure. I felt challenged and pushed, but both groups allow me to work my best and open my mind to the bigger picture.

This learning process was not a walk in the park. The EVX Team and the Philadelphia student union both believe that all young people can be leaders of tomorrow and sometimes that’s a lot of responsibility. Sometimes I am responsible for teaching another young person how something works. Sometimes I have to convince another young person that personal life and personal drama needs to be left behind for the welfare of the group’s progression. Sometimes I even have to let someone know that this is not like school when you can just not do something and get a bad grade. This is real life and you are making a real impact on the world and you are accountable for all of you actions and assignments you take upon yourself. Every step you decide to miss is an opportunity you’ve wasted not only for the team, but for yourself. I don’t want to miss any opportunities.

I know that you don’t want to miss any opportunities either. The opportunity awaiting you is the purchase of a brand new super cool, super efficient, created by students, built in Philadelphia 100 MPG car. When we win seize your opportunity and buy our car.

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