Dr. D's Prescription for Education

Jerry DiLossi - also known as Mr. D., Jerry D. or Dr. D. - has been teaching auto technology to Philadelphia high school students since Hauger was in kindergarten. He and Ron Preiss deliver our NATEF certified curriculum in the following areas: brakes, electrical/electronic systems, engine performance and suspension & steering.  We are the only NATEF certified school in the Philadelphia School District. This is a big deal. NATEF certification is conferred by the Automotive Society of Excellence (ASE) and is not easy to obtain.

There are about 140 students in the Auto Academy. Jerry D. teaches most of them and it is unfortunate that a pretty large percentage of them don’t have much interest in auto technology. After 37 years in the District, Jerry can’t understand why he’s teaching all these kids who don’t give a rat’s ass about cars.

If you ask many of the kids how they got to Auto, they’ll tell you they don’t have a clue. They are telling the truth. Actually, none of us really understand it, but it’s partly because our school, the Academy of Automotive and Mechanical Engineering, is a hybrid. It is not a vocational school. It is not a career technical school. It is not a comprehensive high school.  It is a program within a comprehensive high school.

While the Auto Academy is a self-contained operation in a recently renovated building containing academic classrooms, computer labs and auto shops, we are part of West Philadelphia High School (WPHS), a neighborhood comprehensive high school. The main part of WPHS is a hulking structure that was built in 1911 and takes up an entire city block, one street over from the Auto Academy.  West has a long and storied history. Many incredibly successful people graduated from West Philly.  The Speedboys won more than their fair share of athletic championships.

More recently, however, West Philadelphia High’s reputation has suffered. It is listed as a school that fails to make adequate yearly progress in standardized testing. It remains on the list of persistently dangerous schools, in spite of a dramatically improved school climate under the leadership of Principal Saliyah Cruz. The 1100 students who are enrolled at West Philadelphia High are assigned to a number of different programs, including Auto.

This means, that even if you have no interest in cars, you may get sent to Auto where you spend 2 class periods a day learning about master cylinders and air conditioners. I think about this a lot. Even though I graduated from a Philadelphia High School 40 years ago, I have vivid recollections of what I liked and didn’t like about school.

I can tell you that if I had been put in a cosmetology program or a business program when I was in high school I would have been the most obnoxious and disruptive kid in the class – if I had bothered to come to school. Dr. D. says if anybody had put him in a roofing class he would have flipped out. He hates heights.

The school day is frequently filled with kids telling anyone within earshot what they think about cars, school and anything else that comes to mind. In spite of the frustrations Dr. D. encounters in the classroom, he and Ron Preiss spend hours and hours after school and on the weekends working with the Team – kids who like to work on cars. Beyond that, Dr. D. has become our best recruiter. Sometimes his recruiting methods are a bit unconventional. He’s recruited kids who get in trouble. He’s told them he’d get them kicked out of Auto if they didn’t join the Team. He’s told kids to join the team so they can get their lives together.

The results have been amazing. The kids are incredibly hard working. They come into the shop early. They come to school when it’s closed. They stay late. This success is a testament to Dr. D’s understanding of kids. It is also about what works in education. If you give teachers and students the space to do work that is important and interesting to them, they can achieve great things.  It really does work better than sticking kids in classes they hate.



EVX Dream

Saturday was quite a day, that’s for sure. By the time the afternoon rolled around, I was ready to roll into bed for a nap.  I had everything packed in my car, when Sekou, Diamond and Michael started freestylin’ to music on the computer. It woke me up. I went back to the car and shot a little video. They’ll wake you up, too.



This was Ann's away message five minutes ago.

Ann's new status message - WE PASSED Technical Deliverable 2. Next 500 miles and TD3!   10:03 PM

Get ready.

Ride or Die.


Stop Stressin'

The very first thing Hauger told us when we returned from our February break was that as much work we put in January, we need to put in that same amount of work in February.  That was the very first thing he said to us.

So for the past couple days, it feels like January.  We are after school and close to seven hours on Saturday.  The cars have to be done before March 26.  We need to register 500 miles on them before the technical reports are due March 30.  I believe that we can get everything done with the help and participation of the team.  We have finally fixed the Ford Focuse engine, and it is back in the car.  We are very pleased.

Now its just a matter of time before we can get the GTM working again with all parts assembled thanks to our good friend '' Mark '' who is the man.  He directed us on how to build the GTM.  He was really a great help even though he was only with us for a month.  We will see him soon and continue our work together.

Right now, our main focus is making the car more aerodynamic.  Jeremy posted for us a Google site for the Wind Tunnel Test Plan.  We need to research and write down our ideas on how to make the GTM more aerodynamic.  If you have any guidance or ideas, please please let us know.  Feel free to comment on this blog and share what you know.  We promise we will give you credit.

Ride or Die

Daniel M.


Turning 18

Hello! It's been a long time.  My internship with Penn Medicine keeps me very busy.  I no longer come to Tuesday meetings.  I am only able to make it on Saturdays.  I enjoy both programs so much I didn't want to give it up.
GOOD NEWS! I turned 18 two days ago!!  Happy Birthday to me! hahahaha It was a very nice birthday weekend.  I went out to dinner with my family and friends.  I am now allowed to play the lottery!
Today was a great and very productive Saturday.  Mayor Michael Nutter arrived this morning a little after nine o'clock.  We had four students speak after Ms. R opened.  Justin, Daniel, Azeem, and Michael did a really great job.  Afterwards, we showed Mayor Nutter around the shop.  He looked pretty excited and into it.
He told us that "you are doing something good for the city of Philadelphia.  You are making the city proud."  He also said that when we are about to go to Michigan that he would like to have a big "send off from City Hall."  We did many photos with him.  I was able to get an individual one! Ahhhhh
After Mayor Nutter left, our day was still crazy busy.  We had two major groups see us today.  Student volunteers from Drexel University brought in fifteen desktop computers for the school to use.  Penn student mentors met with the students to set up times for one-on-one tutoring with the students in their math subjects.  I will receive help for two hours every Saturday on Pre-Calc.
There is a lot going on right now with the team.  Keep checking in with us!



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


You Cannot Go Around Breaking Young Girls Hearts

How can you possibly put together the new suspension system for the Ford Focus if you are not listening to Michael Jackson?  It may just be impossible.

Last week in class, the juniors watched "This Is It."  It is about the practice and rehearsal of Michael Jackson's concert tour.  It is a great documentary that showed the artist in many tones and moods throughout his concert rehearsal.  It highlighted the exact three moods and literary genres that are so influential in today's writing.  We finished our unit on the difference between Romanticism, Dark Romanticism, and Gothic.  The students watched three different musical performances, "Billie Jean," "Smooth Criminal," and "Thriller."  Each one represented the different literary genres.  It applies. I promise.

Now while the students are working in the shop and building a new suspension system for the Focus, all you can hear over the ruckus is Diamond and Justin singing Billie Jean.  Amazing.

They are doing a great job.  These young gentlemen have such a great dynamic working with each other and Hauger.  Hauger's son, Micah, is also here today.  I think he thinks he is 16-years-old and has no problem singing along to Michael Jackson with his safety goggles falling off his ears.

The snowstorm really came at a bad time for the West Philly Hybrid X Team.  It is hard to imagine how much work is left to do with the cars.  Each car needs to record 500 miles before the team heads to Michigan Speedway in a month.  It can be done.  It just can't snow again.  Ever.

It does feel good to be working at school.  Towards the end of the week, I was feeling a little claustrophobic.  An unexpected week off was very nice, but now there is something ticking inside all of us that makes us restless at home.  We need to be back to our regular schedule.  My arms are still very sore from shoveling my car out of the snow for two hours, but I am glad to be back in the shop on Saturday.

Later today a bunch of the students are going to the Temple vs. Rhode Island game.  John Doughtery gave us a lot tickets to this game, in addition to the $20,000 check he brought on Tuesday.  I think he could've just showed up with the check and called it a day.  I hope they have a great time.  Daniel is only going, because there will be girls there.  My response is "no romance in high school."

Ride or Die.

Ms. R


Auto Show Check Point

Today is Saturday, February 13, 2010.  Since the record-breaking snow storm that hit Philadelphia, we haven't had a chance to talk about our experiences at the Philadelphia Auto Show.  The Philadelphia School District only had school on Tuesday of this week.  With all this snow and ice, it’s been difficult to open the building to work on the cars.  A couple of the students were here yesterday with Simon from seven in the morning to about noon.  Today, more people are here working on the new suspension system for the Ford Focus.  Below is a dialogue between Daniel Moore and Justin Clarke about their experiences at the Auto Show.  Amazingly enough, some of the dialogue reflects on the GTM display, but mostly they talk about other "hot and sexy" cars.  At least, they know their priorities.

Daniel Moore: Basically, I thought the Auto Show was a great experience.  Not only we were able to see many different cars and styles, but we were able to explain what we were doing for the past couple months.  Many people came up to us and asked us many questions about our car and program.

Justin Carter: I wasn't able to attend the car show until later in the week.  But just to see our car on display was pretty awesome. Cadillac, Audi, and Mitsubishi surrounded our car.

Daniel Moore: When we were able to walk around, there was nothing better, more beautiful then the Corvette Sting Ray.   It was the sexiest looking car out there.  It had a great silver body with black rims.  It was covered in many different news outlets.

Justin Carter: Daniel could not be more wrong.  The Aston Martin is the most luxurious and hottest car at the car show.  It is the hottest luxurious sports edition car.  It is a cruiser specifically made for rich people.

Daniel Moore: There is nothing different from one Aston Martin to the next.  Each one is a carbon copy of each other.  There is nothing original about each Aston Martin.  They all look the same, but the Sting Ray is one of a kind.  It's just hot.  Its basic construction is genuine.  The style and detail are amazing.  It has nothing to do with performance.  After all that money, I guess performance is not the highest point of priority to buyers.

(Sekou shouts from the background.  Jaguar!  The best car was the Jaguar!)

Both Daniel and Justin can agree that the DUB booth was a great booth for free stuff.  Every time I saw Daniel, he had in his hand a Monster energy drink.  It was the same booth that was playing some of the latest pop and rap songs.  So I was told.  They also played 2k10 NBA for free.

Daniel Moore: I really enjoyed going to the car show after school.  I would leave school and hop on the El or sometimes take the trolley.  I liked going at the time from 4 to 8 because that is when most people would come to the show.  I talked to a lot of people about what we did.  It was exciting to talk to people about our car. Before I left for home, I would walk around some more and look at all the other cars that were on display.  And then I would show up the next day and do the same all over again.



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.


MLK Day of Service

On Monday, members of team and I had a very successful day of service.  It was a beautiful day and many members of the West Philly Hybrid X Team were part of this day of service.

I came back to the team this winter break.  I am currently enrolled at CCP, but I really enjoy still being apart of the team.  I usually can only make the Saturday meetings, but Monday was my last day off before spring semester started.

We started on 40th and Market and worked our way up to 48th Street and West Philly High School.  We started with ten to 15 other people (not part of West Philly High) and seriously picked up trash for eight blocks.  We picked up a lot of trash.  A lot of trash.

Some of the boys stayed in the shop to work with Simon and Mark on the GTM.  While we were out, improved the pulleys and belts around the engine.  They finished welding the cell brackets and painted them.  Daniel, Justin Carter, and Justin Clarke, finished the doors and mounted the steering shaft.

They guys are on the move so stay tuned for more juicy blog posts!