Hi my name is Alexis Bland, and I am a sophomore at the Auto Academy.  This is my first year I joined the team. I joined the West Philly Hybrid X team, because I heard it was a good program.  I wanted to get more hands on experience, and I thought it was be really fun to be apart of history in building two hybrid cars.  Not because my boyfriend is on the team.

My auto classes are going well, and I just received a High B for the first marking period. My teacher Mr. Priess is evaluating the class on drum brakes. We just learned how to take them off and then put them back on.  I had to learn the parts as well.

Right now, our major concern along with encouraging people to donate (wink wink) we are entering the Factor Five in the Philadelphia Car Show in February.  So that means we will be with Haug, Ann, and everyone else for the next couple Saturdays.

We are also very excited to have with us on Thursday, Ms. Katherine Gajewski.  A couple of us will be speaking with her about sustainability.

Ride or Die.






No more November

It is pretty crazy being back in school after a nice long break.  Thanksgiving was really nice.  Being home in Baltimore was a lot of fun.  When Ann called me on Saturday she first asked how I was doing in the country and then asked me to come with them to the Eagles game.  The Eagles highlighted our program at the two minute warning before half time.  Ann, Azeem, and Karysma were on the field and showed on the big screen.  It was really nice.  The weather could not be more perfect.  We were sitting in section 124.  Amazing.

Big week ahead for the team.  It started with an Eagles win and hopefully will finish with a nice productive meeting on Saturday.

Long week.

But worth it.


Typical Days

Typical Days

Tuesday November 10 was a regular West Philly Hybrid X Team meeting date. It was typical in many ways. I walked in the building at the end of the school day to hear the list of students who had detention being read over the loud speaker. Attendance at the meeting would be down or at best delayed.

A number of other Team members cruised through the shop on their way to credit recovery in the main building. Credit recovery does not refer to the financial crisis. It refers to going to class after school when you failed a class (or more) in the prior semester. More kids would be very late to the meeting.

Grades go in at the end of this week, so a few more kids remained upstairs working with their Spanish teacher to do the best that they can on their report cards. After all, we check report cards every quarter and poor performance effects who gets to travel with the Team. Check off a few more absentees.

We also had kids missing for illness, suspension and sibling duties. Somehow or the other we mustered a core group for the meeting. It was a good thing, because Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky was visiting to research a column she wrote about us that appears in today’s paper. Here’s the link: City high-school kids best MIT in $10M car contest.

Kids spoke to Ronnie about why they joined the Team and what they like about working on the cars. We got our picture taken. We finished writing a bunch of thank you notes and signing letters to supporters. Students who will be speaking at the National Superintendents Roundtable this weekend worked on their speeches.

We had nutritionally poor drinks and snacks.

Ron Preiss and Simon had a bunch of kids in the shop working of the hybrid drive for the Focus. This, too, is typical. The drive comes in and out of the car, gets taken apart and put back together, refined and refreshed all the time.

The missing team members returned from their various assignments and it was almost time to go.  We have much to do in our not so typical after school quest to win $10 million dollars. We’ll keep you posted.


Fast Car

Thursday November 5, 2009
Fast Car  

I started my day at my favorite spot, Metal Stock , a football field sized warehouse filled with every shape, size and type of metal you can imagine with the added endorphin releasing agents of burnt metal, dingy lighting and whirring machinery.  The first time I walked in to Metal Stock, it was a religious experience.  Today was no different, just a little better. After walking through the shop floor (how many OSHA regs did I violate on my journey?) I arrived at the office to pick up my order.  When the woman processing my order realized I was from West Philly High School, she stopped and looked up at me. “I saw you on the Today Show last week – you guys were amazing.” She continued to say things that made me feel really good. 

I didn’t think the day could get better. But it did. I made it to the shop, and began working with the kids on the hybrid drive.  Mr. DiLossi’s cousin dropped off a custom machined shaft for the drive – serendipitously just when we needed it.

We work on the X Prize cars almost every day after school, but Tuesdays are our regular meeting days. There was no school on Tuesday and Philadelphia Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky was slated to show up at 3PM so we scheduled a Team meeting.  The SEPTA strike kept the writer away, but the video reporter arrived. 

Just as the meeting started, the principal, and both vice principals came storming into the shop calling for me, “Hauger, Hauger”.  I got a sick feeling in my stomach – I just couldn’t figure out why I was in trouble.   Mrs. Cruz started saying good stuff – it took my brain a few seconds to make the adjustment and for the knots to loosen in my stomach.  She explained that musician Wyclef Jean was visiting the school and would like to meet the Team and see the car.  I told her that would be wonderful – the cars are right here.  She wanted us to show him the “pretty” one.  Of course, she meant the Hybrid Attack.  

The kids were ecstatic.  They pulled the Attack out and cleaned it up.  Then we worked on the X Prize cars until he showed up. Since I’m not a wordsmith – I’m an engineer by training –what followed would best be described as a triple integral over a Gaussian surface.  I know – that’s lame.  I’m sorry. We hung out with Wyclef. He’s an off-the-charts car buff -- has a McLaren F1, a doped-out Ferrari 360 Spider, a 1957 Cadillac Eldorado and a Spiderman custom chopper built by those Orange County guys.  An amazing conversation ensued.  It was way cool.  We shared trade secrets with his automotive engineer who’s building a super fast environmentally friendly car for Wyclef.  Maybe he’ll just buy ours.  We spoke to his manager – she would like to get us in a video.  And then my students started spittin’ rhymes; free stylin’.  For fifteen minutes they were all rapping with Wyclef.  You had to see it to believe it. 

I walked over to the garage door just to take it all in.  Justin Carter walked over and said “Haug, this is ridiculous.  This is the best day of my life.  Look – Wyclef is free stylin’ with Sekou in front of our car in our shop.”   I had this surreal feeling – I was fully expecting to wake up in my bed, roll over, and try to explain to my wife that I dreamt a famous rapper stopped by the shop, free styled with my students, wants to put us in his next video, I got to share our secrets with his personal car designer and the principal was being super nice to me.  And oh, yeah – a newspaper video person just happened to be there to capture it all on tape.  Crazy – huh? 

For us religious folks, these situations are kind-of confusing.  Serendipity feels more like divine intervention. 

I heard a man say Jesus walks
Me, myself, I heard Jesus talks
Cause when I heard his beat
I felt Jesus voice…

It was a fast car

Every day is like the wild wild west
Some of us are bad boys
Some of us are outlawed…

In the fast car
Jump in the fast car 

-- an excerpt from Wyclef Jean’s “Fast Car”


High School she was that girl

I think Wyclef Jean should buy the K-1 Attack.  I think he should really buy it.  I think he should buy it, put us in one of his music videos, and possibly name a song after us.

Wyclef Jean came to West Philadelphia High School today to be a part of a service project with the Sixers and Timbaland.  The students who participated painted walls in the main building and some planted an urban garden.  It was amazing to see these students participate in a very high energetic service project organzied by Sam Foster and the Community Schools.  Little did we know that Wyclef was interested in seeing the Automotive building and the K-1 Attack.  He stayed with us for almost an hour.  He told us about his love for cars and his growing interest in green cars.

All of sudden, Karysma and Sekou were spittin' with Wyclef.  Amazing.  They were a force.  Karysma and Sekou were so creative and smooth.  Sekou even put Wyclef's name in his rap and then couldn't stop laughing.  I think Wyclef is the most gracious person.  He was at West for almost five hours.  Sekou and Karysma will always remember that moment.  Lucky for us, Momo and Daniel recorded it.

It was a great day.  I think once you take a step back and realize what has happened just this past month with the team and the program, one needs to take a nap.  I often do.

Did Tango meet up with Wyclef Jean today?  No.  It's a big deal.  I think the students are starting to realize that what we are doing is not just about putting a car that achieves over 100 mpg on the road.  It is about fostering an idea that any one can accomplish anything they want.  It is about education, bettering oneself, being a capable person, and growing in success.

In short, Wyclef needs to buy our car.  Everyone needs to buy Wyclef's new cd.  And call it a day.

Ride or die.

Ms. R


Senior Project What What

Good afternoon.  Ms. R is making us stay after school to blog for the website.  Some reporters from Daily News are here to talk to us about our entry in the X Prize competition.  Nobody told me.  If somebody told me that we were going to be videotaped, than I would have worn more makeup.  Momo says that I look okay.  All the seniors from the service project just stormed into Mr. Preiss' classroom.  They are so crazy.  They painted some of the walls of the main building with Wyclef and some of the members of the Sixers team.  Aaron was mad that he didn't get that many tickets to the Sixers game.  Javonne was telling us about one of those Sixers players was dunking on another.  Lachell videotaped Wyclef doing chin ups.

They are crazy.  I am mad at Ms. R because she only allowed certain seniors to go.  She said that we have to spread the love with the seniors.  He is suppose to be coming over here anyway to meet us so whatever.

Besides all of this, we are really in our senior projects.  Momo and I are trying to figure what are the best ways to inform teenagers about the changes about global warming.  From the summer, we figured that the internet is the best way to get out our message to others.  Momo and I want to put together a podcast before we go on winter break.  We are not sure what it is going to be on but we know we have to keep selling our car to anyone who is interested.

Okay, time to go.  Wyclef is here.

Read our blogs.



Fall is in the Air

Fall is always a time of transition for the West Philly Hybrid X Team. Our seniors, who were Team leaders, have moved on.  Rameak Taylor is at Alvernia University, Anita Davidson is at George Washington University, Eric Yates is at Community College of Philadelphia, Marquis Garner is in City Year, Tyrone Walker is at the University of Pittsburgh, Titusville, Sakira Harris is working hard and getting ready to start college in January. Fortunately, our graduates don’t abandon us. We are always delighted when alums stop by. We’ve seen Lawrence Mahoney-Jones (Drexel), Samantha Wright (Clarion), Kenny Polk-Jones (City Year) and Anita Davidson recently.

September is also a time for new Team members. This year, we’re pleased to welcome a group of new students and teachers to our effort to win the Progressive Automotive X Prize.  Our first two new members are Darmell Bailey and Karysma Cambridge, both sophomores. Darmell worked with us this summer and Karysma joined at the first September meeting. We are also thrilled to welcome Mrs. Ruth Donnelly who transferred from Swenson to West Philly High to be our Career Tech Ed Specialist. We are extremely grateful to have Dr. Christian Onuoha heading up our efforts to showcase biodiesel and biobutanol.

More recently we have welcomed Curtis Henderson, Shanea Chellis, Wagui Ndiaye, Joseph Jones and Alexis Bland. Read more about them on our Team biographies page.


Empire State of Mind

New York City is a force. It is exciting to see our students match that power and drive.

The students left the Progressive Launch press conference around four o'clock in the afternoon. Most of us checked in at the hotel while Simon, Jacques, Justin, and Ann stayed behind to work more on the car. They had some last minute intricate details they wanted done before tomorrow morning.

We had an amazing dinner at the Rock Cafe right next to the skating rink in Rockefeller Center. It is such a beautiful space.Mrs. Llewellyn is so wonderful and very generous in supporting our team. It was such a lovely dinner (the food was amazing), and we appreciate everything that Mrs. Llewellyn does for us. Thank you! Thank you!

It was such a delicious dinner. My sister Megan came to join us from the upper east side. She brought with her delicious cakes from a bakery that makes the best butter cream icing. The red velvet cake was awesome. Megan had a good time with us and it was nice to catch up.

Dinner ended around 10:30 p.m. And of course we wanted to take the students to see Times Square. That is a force. That is exactly what it is "a concrete jungle where dreams are made of." Alicia and Jay Z are absolutely correct. Jacques even wutanged with another gentlemen on the street. Jacques won. I told him to watch his language next time.

The students are thrilled to be here. Momo told me she wants to stay for a week. Azeem responded, "That would be decent." I agreed. West Philly, we miss you tremendously, but New York City is a force.

We accomplished so much today. The students talked to many different media outlets about all the various aspects of the team and how influential they can be in this green economy. I think they are starting to realize that this is a big deal. Darmell said it best, "We are important." I laughed because we are team on the same show floor as a 115,000 dollar car, talking about the same lithium iron phosphate battery.

I am curious if any of us will really sleep tonight. Simon is probably reviewing his adjective flash cards right now. Ann is thinking how many different ways can she say, "WE NEED YOUR MONEY!" I cannot wait to say "Happy Birthday Mom! Ride or Die!" on television tomorrow.

Please, please call off work tomorrow morning and watch us on the Today Show. I know my mom and dad already have their cherry and butternut danishes ready. No one works on Tuesday mornings anyway. Please watch us.

And then donate money on our website.

Ride or die

Ms. R


And then there were 43

Hey! We are having a great time here in New York. I think everyone is getting a little tired. The fact that we were up at 5 in the morning isn't helping us right now.

I had an interview this morning with a Chinese television channel, and I spoke to one of the correspondents in Chinese! That was really cool, and the young woman was really nice who interviewed me.

After the interviews, we had a chance to look at the other cars in the space. They look weird but the colors are really nice. The ZAP Alias is a red electric car that almost looks like a motorcycle. It has only one wheel in the back and can only sit two people. The AMP'D Sky is so cool and the most stylish car in this space. Right now, people are looking at the battery and electric engine. It is also a two-seater. There is a car here called the "Tango." It is orange. The seats are back to back. They are not parallel. It is so tiny that I am not sure how tall people would be able to drive it. It also doesn't have that much trunk space. You would have to be a light packer. The Surge is like the ZAP. It looks like a motorcyle. It is lower to the ground, and it doesn't have any windows. Most of these cars can get over 100 mph and are all electric. According to Anita, George Clooney bought the Tango car. It costs about 115, 000. Crazy.

So. Our car is the only car that is a five-seater and that has trunk space. It is the only hybrid. Khaleda found out that we are not the only ones using a lithium iron phosphate battery. That surprises us.

Well for the rest of the day we are going to keep talking to the press. Simon wants to work on the car and I want to go shopping. Ms. R says that I can't go shopping. Wamp wamp.

We are going to check into the hotel soon and then get ready for dinner.

Keep in touch



We are in New York City!

Good morning!

Before we begin our blog Ms. R wants me to wish her mom a happy birthday. "Happy Birthday Mrs. Radebaugh!"

I woke up this morning around four a.m. I really didn't sleep that much last night because I was nervous and excited. I was nervous that my alarm wouldn't go off, and I was excited to go to New York! When I walking to school, I was even afraid of my own shadow.

Once I arrived at West, everyone was there except Hauger. Hauger was a little late (really late according to Ann) and couldn't find the car keys for the Ford Focus. Hauger thought he left the car keys at home, but much to our delight and concern, they were in the car's ignition.

We left school around 6:15 a.m. I sat up front with Maurice Williams, because I get car sick. I didn't want to throw up in the car, especially on my new Progressive Insurance X Prize hoodie! By the time we got on the New Jersey turnpike, everyone was asleep. Momo and Jacques kept waking people up. Justin was snoring. That was horrible. Momo videotaped Darmell looking out the car window.

We arrived in Manhattan around 9 a.m. Sadly, our Ford Focus was not with us. Tom, the tow-truck driver, was stuck in the Holland Tunnel, and didn't arrive until 10 minutes before the press conference. In the mean time, Ms. R and Darmell went to go pick up bagels and cream cheese for the team. I hope Tom got a bagel.

During the press conference, they showed a video to promote a new high school competition called Dashboard+. Roger and Azeem were in the video. Roger said he thinks one day cars will smell like and run on french fries. It was really funny.

Well right now we are just talking with different media outlets. Momo did an interview for a Chinese television station, and she spoke Chinese.

It is a beautiful day here!

Best Wishes