Wednesday, 12 May 2010 17:30

What will you do if you win?

As the field narrows and we get closer to the knock-out round, I imagine all the teams are hearing this question more frequently.  I also imagine that the answers vary as widely as the teams who are entered in this $10 million competition.

I started thinking seriously about this question over a year ago.  Ann had just called me – she was having a melt-down, “What are we doing in this competition?  We are in way over our heads.”  I knew how to respond because I had struggled with the same feelings several times myself.

We are not a car company. The West Philly Hybrid X Team is made up of educators and students.  We entered the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE not to launch a new car company, but to create an unparalleled educational experience for our students.  We wanted to demonstrate the value of engaging kids – their creativity and their intellect – in solving some of the world’s most pressing problems.  We wanted to be a part of the collective push to revolutionize the automotive industry.

A year ago I realized, by that definition, we had already won.  We engaged an amazing group of students to develop our vision about hybrid cars and how to improve urban air quality. We developed a business plan to manufacture our cars in our community and provide pipelines from high school to the good manufacturing jobs that Philadelphia needs.  But more than that, we were being taken seriously.  The local and national media were treating us as true contenders.  Our students received unprecedented opportunities to speak at universities, national conferences and in the community. Sponsors and donors committed to support our vision and volunteers and students continued to pour tremendous time and effort into this project.

We have already won.

Most of you probably still want to know what we will do if we take first place and receive the millions.  Well, stranger things have happened. And since I do believe in Divine intervention, I would never rule that out.  However, the reality is that we are competing against teams of engineers, well-funded start-up companies and major universities.

Our goal is to ride the rollercoaster and show the world what an urban high school team is capable of.  And when that ride comes to its end, we will begin work on our next dream – to start a school.  We’ve learned a bit about hybrid vehicles over the past twelve years. We’ve learned a lot more about how to educate youth.  The world is in need of 100 MPGe vehicles.  Philadelphia needs new manufacturing jobs.

But, most of all, America is in desperate need of dynamic schools that work. We can’t wait to bring our winning team to that challenge.



Published in Blogs
Sunday, 02 May 2010 22:50

Hybrid Rollercoaster

 The ride began a week ago when we arrived at Michigan International Speedway for the first track event for the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE competition on Sunday April 25.  The culmination of more than two years of work was finally going to be tested.  We had no idea what we were in for.

 Monday was something like a bad proctology exam.  A retired head of engineering from Chrysler who developed the Dodge Viper began the interrogation.  His third question was “what torque spec plan did you use for the vehicle?”  I responded “the German one” to which he responded with a puzzled look, “what is that?”  I replied “all the bolts are gutten-tight”.  With no expression and a flat tone, he replied “funny”.  At that point I knew it was going to be a long week.  After finding several loose bolts, we had to produce a real torque-spec plan and then demonstrate that every bolt was tightened to that torque.  And that was the easy part - it went downhill from there. 

 Tuesday began at 7AM in the garage and we left at 9:30 PM.  We sat down for dinner around 10 PM – Ann looked like she might fall asleep while we waited for our food.  Mark recalled the ridiculousness of the day while Keith and Jerry lamented that they had a few more hours of programming to do on the control system that night.  I’m not sure if they slept at all.  I noticed that my hands looked as if I had been playing with barbed-wire.  What a day.

 However, by early Wednesday morning I felt the joy of coming out the other side of an abusive relationship.  Both cars completed the first stage and received their little green sticker which were required to move to the next stage – dynamic testing.  You would have thought we won the lottery when the sticker hit the windshield.  The cars we had dreamed of almost three years ago were given their first official approval.  It’s hard to describe that feeling.

 The dynamic testing was the second of three required events to “pass” this stage of the competition.  It consisted of a 0 to 60 acceleration test, a 60 to 0 braking test, and a high speed lane change test that were all conducted by Consumer Reports.  The GT, driven by Mark, sailed through all three events and by the end of the day qualified for the third and final requirement – the durability test.  The GT was running so well, Mark signed up for the two optional events – emissions and efficiency.  The Focus was another story.  I ran the Focus in the 0 to 60 test on electric only.  The Harley engine was not working properly.  I topped out at 58 mph in my third run and then the electric drive system turned off.  We searched for the cause for hours – could it be the motor, the controller, the battery pack?  We spent all afternoon Wednesday working on the Harley engine and trying to resolve our electric propulsion problems.  We charged the battery pack (which is another story in itself) and first thing Thursday took another shot with the Focus.  The electric drive clicked off again.  It looked like two years of work was about to come to an end.  Ann wanted to vomit.  I prayed and worked as hard as I could.  It appeared that our ride was over.  We took the Focus back to the garage and fought the Harley engine.  Keith reprogrammed the control system just so we could use the Harley for the acceleration test.  I prayed more.  Ann said she was considering getting Bat-Mitzvahed.  Just as we got the Harley started it began to rain.  You can’t do a braking test in the rain – you can’t do a high speed lane change in the rain.  All the teams who had run those tests (about half by this point) struggled to meet the requirements on dry pavement.  I couldn’t believe it was raining – and the Harley was barely running. 

 And then something happened.  The rollercoaster began to ascend from the depths.   The rain stopped.  The pavement dried up in minutes.  And the Harley decided to behave – and Keith’s programming actually allowed me to drive on both electric and Harley.  We hurried over to the track and took our first run.  It was 4PM and Consumer Reports was scheduled to leave at 5PM.  They dropped the green flag – I started off slowly (another long story) and then punched it.  The Harley coupled to the transmission and launched me to 70 MPH in what felt like seconds.  I flew past the braking skid pad at 67 mph and stopped in the required distance.  We passed the braking test!  I thought we had passed the acceleration test but found out that the slow start kept me from making the requirement.  So we tried again – but then the Harley died.  The clock was ticking.  Once again, the coaster was on its way back down.  I called my mother and told her to pray.  We fought the Harley again and finally got it started.  I knew this was the last run.  As the green flag dropped, I eased off the line, and then floored it.  As I pulled through third gear, the car continued to accelerate.  I decided not to shift – the car was going to reach 60 or the engine was going to blow.  One way or the other, this was it.  I flew across the finish line with the engine blaring at over 6000 rpms.  The Focus actually accelerated faster than the GT.  We passed the acceleration test and hurried over to the lane change.  It was tricky, but we did it.  The rollercoaster was soaring high again.

 The Focus was scheduled for the 40 mile durability run at the track’s old Formula 1 course for Friday at 2PM.  It was the last event of the week.  Five teams showed up to run it.  Five other teams didn’t even make it to this point.  We spent all morning getting the Harley working properly and charging the batteries.  The Harley was finally working and the batteries were charged.  The Focus was running at its best.  We arrived at 2PM full of confidence. 

 After a short drivers’ meeting, we lined up.  We went to start the Harley, but it just wouldn’t start.  So I decided to watch the battery pack closely and run on electric only.  After 10 miles I knew the car wouldn’t make it on electric only.  I pulled into the pit and we fought the Harley.  After a long battle, it relented and started.  It wasn’t running well, but with its assistance, I was sure we could make the laps in the allotted time.  Two laps in with the Harley, I smelled smoke.  As I came through the hairpin turn, the car lost all power.  I knew something bad had happened.  Fortunately there was a flag station next to the corner.  I pulled in and immediately one of the fire trucks pulled up next to me.  I opened the hood and indeed, there was a fire.  Two years of work and all the hype, literally going up in flames.  I thought I was going to vomit.  The fireman used his canister and put out the fire.  I was sure the rollercoaster had hit its lowest point already – I was wrong.  Twelve years of building cars and this was one of the best we’ve ever built.  How could this happen? 

 The good news was that we discovered that our disaster wasn’t as bad as we thought and that it had been caused by a stupid mistake.  Oil leaked and caught fire.  The damage was minimal.  We filed an appeal and the judges accepted it.  Somehow, miraculously, we’ll be back in June – with both cars.  


Published in Blogs
Thursday, 29 April 2010 22:34

It was an OMG kind of a day

Simon has been praying. All the time. I was nearly sick. Only Keith uttered the words out loud although at some point today we all thought it. “At least we’ll still have one car in the X Prize.” When we came to Michigan for the Shakedown Stage of the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE, we thought that the Focus was in significantly better shape than the GT. We were wrong.

By Tuesday both the Focus and the GT passed the technical inspection and it was time to move to dynamic testing. Big Mark took the GT to the track and quickly passed the acceleration, braking and lane change tests. It looked easy.

Then we brought the Ford over. The object of the acceleration and braking test is to accelerate from 0 to 60 in under 15 seconds, then brake from 60 to 0 in less than 170 feet. Simon had the Focus in all electric mode. He got really close on his first two runs at 55 MPH and then 58 MPH. But he couldn’t hit 60 MPH. Something was seriously wrong. Simon’s mother started praying.

We didn’t panic. We took the Ford back to the shop, worked into the night and were prepared to try it again in the morning. It didn’t work. Was there a bad cell in the battery pack? Was there a software problem? Noon came and went with no answer. We charged the car and tried again without success. Our only alternative was to run the car on the Harley to get our acceleration. That’s right: run a 3500 lb car on a Harley-Davidson engine to pass our acceleration test.

Just one problem. The Harley wouldn’t start. After what seemed like hours of intensive programming Keith and Jerry got the Harley running, but every time Simon touched the throttle, the engine shut-off. Again and again. Then it started to rain. Big Mark came back from running the durability test on the GT and worked his magic on the throttle. We were ready to go back to the track and try again.

In the meantime, Consumer Reports, which was responsible for running the dynamic tests, had left the track. When we didn’t show up on the track in the afternoon, they packed their bags and were headed out. We were the only car left to go. Fortunately, they unpacked and came back for us. First go was not good. Second time we had 0 to 60 in 16.9 seconds. We hit the braking zone at 67 mph and stopped in less than 170 feet. Half our battle – braking was okay, but we had to try again for acceleration. Third time we did it in 16.2 seconds. Then the Harley stalled out. OMG.

I waited at the finish line for what seemed like a week as the rest of the Team worked on the Focus at the other end of the straightaway. The sun came out but there was no rainbow. Finally, Simon ran the Focus with the Harley rumbling, the electric motor humming, the magnetic clutch ringing and hit the acceleration mark. I was no longer sick.

Last hurdle for the day was the lane change. This accident avoidance maneuver has to be performed at 45 mph and simulates switching 2 lanes of traffic. There are cones set up to mark lanes. Hit a cone and you’ve failed. Come in at less than 45 mph and you’ve failed. Time and again Simon came through. Wasn’t fast enough. Hit a cone. Hit another cone. Wasn’t fast enough. Ten or eleven must have been the charm, because he nailed it. In true Hauger fashion we even had 40 minutes to spare.

What a day. We have one more day of testing tomorrow. When we nail those tests all we have to do is drive home and get two cars and about 15 kids ready to come back to the Michigan International Speedway in June for the next stage of this $10 million rollercoaster ride. OMG.




Published in Blogs
Wednesday, 28 April 2010 21:06

A different energy shift

With the absence of Hauger, Mark, lil Mark, Keith, and Jerry P, the downstairs shops are a little lonely.  There is this great space in the middle of Ron's shop.  Sometimes you see Daniel Moore just walking around in circles where the GTM used to lay.  It is a little sad.

Trust me though when I say that we have enough work to keep us from any nostalgia, that is an understatement.  And when I say that we had enough drama in our lives over the past couple days to sell out Broadway, that is an understatement.

Yet, the cars are working.  The West Philly Hybrid X Team is doing very well in Michigan.  The GTM passed the speed test.  Tomorrow, Simon and company will try the Ford Focus again.  Ann is keeping everyone updated with emails and tweets in the middle of all her runs to the hardware store and auto shops.  I would love to see Edison 2's four cars at the Speedway.  They sound amazing.  Four cars!  What an incredible accomplishment.

The thing is, the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize is accomplishing everything they set out to do.  You have engineers, mechanics, thinkers, businessmen and women coming together to talk cars.  This competition sparked this need for innovative hybrid technology and powerful business plans.  Many people are taking notice.  This competition has done so much for this team that it doesn't seem real at times.  Three students will speak on Friday at MIT about the future of sustainability energy.  Ten days ago, another four students were part of a panel at Saint Joseph's University discussing the educational benefits a CTE curriculum fosters at an urban school.  Boeing Wind Tunnel opened its doors for us to test the areodynamics of our cars.  We truly are fortunate to work with such wonderful and accomplished companies and universities as if it is the norm now.

I am very excited to take three students, Azeem, Daniel, and Sekou to Boston with Maurice Williams.  I cannot imagine the electricity on that campus.  As a former rower at Saint Joseph's, the women's team was always jealous of the men's team when they went to Boston to row on the Charles River.  I have never seen the Charles River.  I can imagine its a beautiful river.

Keep updated with the mechanics and engineers in Michigan through out twitter account.  Make sure to follow the students in Boston as the present our essential question, "How do you educate urban youth for the green economy?"

Two answers: compete in nationally prestigious competitions and implement a strong CTE curriculum.

Ride or Die

Ms. R

Published in Blogs
Tuesday, 06 April 2010 21:35

Our Ridiculous Adventure

We did it. It’s ridiculous, but we did it. It had to be done. We had to complete both cars and drive each of them 100 miles by March 30, or we would be eliminated from the X PRIZE.  We also had to submit our third technical report, photos and video.

On April 2, we learned that our technical report was accepted and that we now move on to the Shakedown Stage of the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE. That means we’re on our way to the Michigan International Speedway on April 24 for a week of on-track technical and safety testing. 

Getting to Michigan has been completely and totally ridiculous.  It’s so ridiculous I don’t know where to start, but I guess the beginning of the year is as good as any. To start off the New Year, we switched the batteries in our cars.  I don’t mean we took out a car battery from Sears and put in one from Pep Boys. I mean we replaced our we-love-this-lithium-iron-phosphate-battery-pack with a pack that has an entirely different chemistry from an entirely different manufacturer.  This also meant we needed new battery boxes.

This too, was ridiculous. We had to replace the perfectly lovely milk crates we’d been using as battery boxes with aluminum boxes fabricated by the manufacturer. (BTW, between the milk crates and the new boxes, we built about 4 different iterations of battery boxes, although we always seemed to revert to the milk crates.) Then we had to take the boxes out to have brackets welded to them. Then we drove the boxes back to the International Battery in Allentown. We did all this running around so we would have our batteries and battery management system installed in the cars by March 1 so we would have plenty of time to complete all our technical testing. That was delusional.

You know what else was ridiculous? The weather.  Philadelphia had 78.7 inches of snow this winter.  We had more snow than Boston, Chicago and Anchorage. Every time we needed to be in school working on the cars, school was closed. Some snow days were really bad. On some of those days Simon, who is the most ridiculous of all, drove through the city, picked up kids and went to school.  There were also the two ridiculous snow days when we waited – at home – for the storm that never came. We lost so much time from school that the Philadelphia School District cancelled the first two days of spring break. Are you kidding me? That’s what the kids were saying. The teachers were grumbling. Simon committed to a family vacation for the entirety of spring break or face divorce. I declared that I didn’t give a damn what Arlene Ackerman said, I was taking my spring break. I must now publically apologize to Dr. Ackerman and thank her for giving us the extra time to finish the cars.  

School was supposed to be over for all of us on Friday March 26. Our cars would be built, we’d have already driven them and Simon would write the technical report on the weekend. We’d get our report in way before the deadline. What an insane notion.  On Tuesday, our batteries were still in Allentown.

The batteries and a large flock of engineers installed the batteries and the battery management on Wednesday. That gave us a beautiful warm day to drive the cars on Thursday. We got the Focus to the lot first. It drove like a charm. Then the GT arrived and it looked great. It drove great – for about a lap. Then it started making horrific noises. We tried to diagnose the problem at the lot. We had come without a proper set of tools, so we used a lug wrench, a fence post and rebar as a hammer. They really didn’t work all that well, so we hauled the car back to school where we found that we had, apparently, ruined our fancy-ass Audi transmission.

After 2 ½ years of work, the idea of transmission problems knocking us out of the X PRIZE was staring us in the face. What an ignoble way to exit. Fortunately, we found another transmission in Texas and had it shipped overnight. It arrived on Saturday morning March 27, a day school would have been shut up tighter than a drum had it not been for the weather in February. We split our team of students and teachers with a small group of us going to the lot with the Focus to continue counting laps and recording video and the rest installing the new transmission in the GT. I even got to drive the Focus.

The new transmission was installed, the GT went on the lift and was started. NO! The same noise. The crew disassembled the transmission and put it together again. On this assembly, which was not by the book, Justin Clarke dropped a piece of equipment on the housing, denting it. Now we’re not sure if this bizarre accident was the reason, but the transmission stopped making the horror movie noises. We got it to the lot and spun off our laps.

This will be the last fact I relate about our adventure. It was about 30 degrees colder on Saturday than Thursday, and because we were so short of time, we compiled our laps on the GT without the body in place, which meant we did not have lights. Drivers, in long underwear, hats, hoodies and gloves rotated through driving assignments until we ran out of daylight. We got the final 35 miles on Sunday.  We are even happier to report that Simon made it to his spring vacation and remains happily married.

We hope you will continue to follow our great and ridiculous adventure.


Published in Blogs
Saturday, 03 April 2010 19:36

Mike should major in EV

 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. 

Published in Blogs
Monday, 22 March 2010 21:38


I know that it’s not nice to feel good about the misfortune of others, but, I just can’t seem to help myself.

Let me tell you the whole story.  Through the hard work of our wonderful West Philadelphia State Representative James Roebuck, we got a call from Chevrolet. How would we like to have the Chevy Volt come to our school? They would send one of the engineers who helped develop this-next-new-thing in the automotive world and we’d have a great presentation about range extended electric vehicles.

Wow! We liked the idea so much we invited students from other automotive programs across the city to come. The School District provided a bus. We conference called with the presenters, the P. R. folks and the logistics personnel. We crafted an afternoon’s activities that included a presentation by Chevy, speeches by our Team members about our technology, a question and answer session and time for all of us to get a good look at the Volt.

This morning we arranged a 100 foot parking spot on Hanson Street for Chevy to park the tractor trailer carrying the Volt. We ordered the pizza. We set up chairs. We got the drinks. Then we got the call. The truck carrying the Volt broke down.  We’re not making this up. “Can you flatbed it?” I asked the transport supervisor.  I asked the guy who called from Detroit could they swap the tractor. He asked me did we have a tractor. While we have a lot at the Auto Academy, we didn’t have a tractor sitting around.  So GM had to fend for itself.

The P. R. folks showed up, the press showed up, the students and teachers showed up, the presenter showed up, the pizza showed up, but the Chevy Volt did not. Melanie Fox gave a terrific presentation about the Volt’s technology. Students from West, Randolph and Edison asked great questions. Ron Preiss welcomed all the guests. Sekou Kamara, Alexis Bland and Azeem Hill all gave wonderful speeches. We all had a great time talking to each other and learning.

It is good to feel good about the exchange of information and meeting lots of new students. But, here’s the bad part. It is Schadenfreude.  I am getting some sort of significant delight that GM couldn’t get their super new car to West Philly because of mechanical problems. Let me be clear. I like GM. I like Chevy. I own a Malibu Hybrid. It’s the best looking car I’ve ever owned. It gets great mileage. It’s never had a mechanical problem.

Before I became the manager of the West Philly Hybrid X Team, I was a fan who faithfully followed the Team competitions.  Inevitably, the day before a race, Simon Hauger would tell me that the car was broken and we wouldn’t be able to go. Of course, if you take a look at our record, you’ll see that Simon and the team always managed to get the car to the race and more times than not, they won. That’s why I have always had tremendous respect for Simon.

Today, my respect for Simon grew by about 25-fold. We got to our races raising the money we needed through bake sales and there we were listening to how many Chevy Volts they crashed tested at hundreds of thousands of dollars a pop and how it took about a quadrillion zillion dollars of research and development to create the Volt.  And they couldn’t get the car from New Jersey to West Philly.

Chevy, I love you. It was a great day, a wonderful visit. I just can’t wipe the smirk off my face. I’m so sorry.


Published in Blogs
Thursday, 18 March 2010 09:05

How We Got Our Name

I wasn’t there at the very beginning.  At the start of it all it was Simon Hauger, math and physics teacher at the West Philadelphia High Auto Academy, and a group of students who entered the science fair. It was 1998. The kids in Simon's after school program built an electric go-kart. They won the science fair. It was a remarkable achievement. There had never been a science fair winner from West Philadelphia High School, let alone form the Auto Academy.

The after school program grew from building science fair projects to competing in the Tour de Sol, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious alternative fuel vehicle race.  The students built an electric car and became the Electric Vehicle, or EV Team. Besides building electric vehicles, they built hybrid and biodiesel vehicles, but the name stuck.

When we entered the X PRIZE, there were many suggestions about what our team name should be including X-Treme Team, X-Dream Team, and many other hokey suggestions. We kept our original team name and added the X: EVX Team.  However, we thought the name wasn’t quite descriptive enough, so we gave ourselves an official name, too. We would be the West Philly Hybrid X Team.  EVX would be the name of our cars. A little confusing having two names for one team, but it looks good on our logo.

Now, it looks like an extremely good idea since there is another EVX Team in the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE.  You can check out their website and follow them in the competition, too.  We hope that you take a look at all our competitors and see all the different ways teams are getting to 100 MPGe. Follow their progress and the new technologies. At the end of the summer we hope that they will all follow us across the finish line. We’ll keep you posted.

Published in Blogs
Tuesday, 16 February 2010 21:20

Coefficient drag

There is this thing called coefficient of drag in describing the aerodynamics of a car.  The next couple weeks, the team's focus is to figure out how to create the best balance of a coefficient drag and the aerodynamics of our cars.

At 4:15 p.m., I was completely brain-dead while Hauger explained the force, pull, gravity, weight, aerodynamics, wind resistance, rain drop, triangle, slippery tires, panels, cardboard, duct tape, and something else I cannot remember about the two cars.  We pretty much want our cars to be as close to zero drag as possible.  Right now, the Ford Focus is a 0.35.  The less drag, the more fuel efficiency.  I bet I was dragging at about a 12409504932948.0987656 towards the end of today.

Today was our first day back at school.  Seriously, I am not complaining.  I really do enjoy 150 teenagers in my life at 7:45 in the morning.  I also enjoyed the additional three inches of snow interrupting first, second, and third period.  Crazy enough, work was accomplished today.  The sophomores and juniors finished their interim essays.  I saw about 50% of my senior class during eighth period and E.B. White was gracious enough to grace the classroom with a stream-of-consciousness writing style.

The team assembled for its Tuesday meeting run by Hauger and his excessive need for aerodynamics.  It is interesting to compare how the students perform during the day versus the afternoon setting.  Maybe they are more active in the afternoon, because Ann provides pretzels and clementines.  Maybe they are more active, because Ann describes 14 chances for them to public speak, meet fascinating people, and travel outside of West Philly during the school day.  February, March, and April are very busy and important months for the team.  The mechanical aspects of the cars have to be near perfection in order to participate in the next round in June.  Within the next two weeks, the students will speak to Mayor Nutter, appear on a Gates Foundation video, seek tutoring from Penn engineers, and partake in the documentary filming.

It is a very challenging schedule.  We wouldn't be doing any of this if we didn't want a challenging schedule.  Sometimes mistakes get in our way, and we run into situations that may appear out of our control.  If ever there was a time for our students to realize that nothing else matters but taking care of yourself and the education you receive, it is now.  We need the students to have zero drag.

If you can, email us some of your thought on how we can make our cars more like a "raindrop."   How can we make sure that we are achieving the best aerodynamics we can safely achieve in the cars?

Also, it cannot snow ever again.

Ride or Die.

Ms. R

Published in Blogs
Saturday, 13 February 2010 09:55

Friday School?

Yesterday, I was at West Philly Auto by seven o'clock, in the morning!  On Thursday, Ms. Ann called me and wanted me to call Simon about getting into the shop to work.  Simon came and picked me up at my house.  We worked on the GTM brakes and on the engine on the Ford.  On the brakes, we had to calibrate new brakes to see if it would weigh less.  It didn't work because the brakes weighed basically the same.  We tightened the pulleys on the engine, because that is what runs the belt around.  The belts were not rotating properly during our test runs.  We were able to do all of this before noon.  For lunch, we went to Fiesta Pizza Shop.  It is on 43th and Baltimore.  It was delicious.  I had pepperoni and cheese pizza.  Hauger paid.  Then he dropped us back home.

Today, we have to open up the suspension components in the Ford.  It makes the car handle better.  We put more weight on the car.  The batteries in the back will weigh 300 lbs.  The suspension has 300 lbs to maneuver.  In order for the Ford to have suspension and a proper frame, we are adding a sway bar in the back.

We still have so much to do.

Get Rich or Die trying.

Justin Clarke.

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