Everyone knows how bad the average big city urban high school is, right? No way students could ever accomplish anything, well, except when they do. West Philadelphia High School is one of those places where you wouldn't expect much, but the students under the direction of Simon Hauger, an ex-GE engineer, built two cars to compete for the Automotive X Prize. Going up against teams from around the world with far greater resources (the only high school!), the students were real contenders, and one of their cars, the EVX Focus, paired an electric motor with a Harley Davidson V-Twin, not something you see every day and not the kind of thing you would expect to come out of an inner city school like West Philly.
The students didn't sit back and listen to lectures, this was real hands on learning, where they experienced the real challenges of solving problems under time pressure as they worked toward the goal: to construct a vehicle capable of getting 100 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent (MPGe) during normal driving. The class was engaging in "Project Based Learning," taking on real world problems and using critical thinking to come up with and then implement solutions, exactly what it takes to succeed in the world after school.
There are two X-Prize classes of cars the teams can build and the students built one for each class. The Ford Focus was their entry in the class for: A mainstream car that seats at least four passengers, has four wheels and has a minimum 200 mile range. This was the one where the Harley V-Twin was mounted under the hood.
West Philly High was one of 111 teams to start and made it into the final 30 when they traveled to Michigan to compete. A recent PBS Frontline episode covered the competition as seen by the high school team and showed how well they did.
One of the eventual winners in the Alternative class, was a Peraves E-Tracer, an enclosed electric motorcycle many of you are familiar with.
This is the kind of learning I really like to see, a lot less talk, a lot more action, combined with some out of the box configurations, would you really expect to see a Harley under the hood in the X-Prize competition? If you have the time, watching the Frontline episode is pretty interesting. Hats off to the team and to Simon Hauger for putting something like this into the realm of possibility for students who would otherwise be just another statistic.
Thanks to "decline" one of our readers for the tip.
Link: PBS Frontline