By JOHN KLINE
---- — GOSHEN — Think a vehicle that can get more than 500 miles per gallon is still a thing of the future? Several local high school Super Mileage teams would beg to differ.
Just ask the members of the Goshen High School Super Mileage team, who this past weekend competed in their third consecutive Shell Eco-Marathon Americas, an international competition held in Houston, Texas, that brings together more than 1,000 high school and university students from across the Americas to compete to see whose self-built, ultra energy efficient vehicles can travel the farthest distance using the least amount of energy.
The team, lead by engineering technology teacher J.J. Johnson, took two cars to the competition this year — a gasoline-powered electronic fuel-injected car and a diesel-powered car. While the team has competed with gasoline-powered vehicles in the past, this year’s diesel-powered car was a first for the group.
“The competition went really, really well,” Johnson said from his office Tuesday afternoon. “The gasoline vehicle ended up in 17th place out of 43 cars, and the diesel ended up in 5th place out of nine cars.”
While the team’s goal this year to break the 1,000 miles per gallon mark with their gasoline-powered car did fall short in the end, the group was able to turn out a top run of 588 miles per gallon — an impressive figure by anyone’s standards. The team’s top diesel run came out to 442 miles per gallon.
“Overall they’re feeling really good about their performance,” Johnson said of the team, noting that while the team was unable to reach its 1,000 miles per gallon goal for the year, it was able to complete all 10 of the laps required for each competition — a big accomplishment for even the highest performing schools. “When I sit back and reflect, being able to complete the laps the students completed in Houston is a battle in itself, because many schools can’t complete a full 10 laps. So to get through all that, the technical inspection and complete the laps is a big technical feat. So I’m really happy with the results.”
Fairfield Jr.-Sr. High School
Turning out a similarly impressive performance at the Shell Eco-Marathon competition this weekend was the Fairfield Jr.-Sr. High School Super Mileage team, whose gasoline-powered vehicle achieved a top run of 549 miles per gallon — beating the team’s goal of 500 miles per gallon — and earning the team a 19th place finish out of 43 competitors.
“I’m really happy with how the competition turned out,” said team leader and Fairfield engineering technology teacher Jim Jones from his office Tuesday. “I’m really ecstatic that the kids got 549 miles out of their engine. But the winning school this year was 2,800 miles per gallon, and that’s a college up in Canada. So the competition is definitely tough, and to compete and do well against those guys, just to get the 500 miles per gallon or more, is quite an accomplishment I think. So I’m really happy with how things turned out.”
In addition to the Houston competition, the Fairfield team also sent several team members down to Indianapolis this Sunday to prepare for the annual Indiana Mathematics, Science and Technology Education Alliance (IMSTEA) Super Mileage Challenge held Monday at Lucas Oil Raceway Park.
“Their best run was 193 miles per gallon,” Jones said of the team’s Indianapolis performance. “They also got a real nice trophy for the Sportsmanship Award, which means that they were very helpful to the other teams during the competition.”
Wawasee High School
Also joining Goshen and Fairfield at the Shell Eco-Marathon Americas competition this weekend was Wawasee High School, whose Super Mileage team took the highest honors of all three schools in both the gasoline and diesel categories.
In the gasoline-powered division, the team pulled off a school recorder-breaker with a top run of 1,063 miles per gallon, earning the team an 11th place finish overall in the category. The team then pulled off a second big performance in the diesel-powered division with a top run of 974 miles per gallon, earning the team a 3rd place win overall.
“We did the best we’ve ever done in a gasoline vehicle,” said team leader and Wawasee engineering design and development instructor Allen Coblentz. “Then our diesel vehicle, we were 3rd out of nine teams, and that earned us a trophy and $900.”
And like Fairfield, Wawasee also had a team represented at the IMSTEA Super Mileage Challenge in Indianapolis this Monday, where the team pulled out a top run of about 450 miles per gallon and earned a Best Design Award for the event.
Looking back on the team’s recent accomplishments, Coblentz noted that while exceeding the team’s goal for the year of breaking the 1,000 miles per gallon mark in the gasoline-powered division was a big victory, what he sees as the biggest win overall is the way the team worked together to ensure everyone had the best experience possible during their competitions.
As an example, Coblentz pointed to the way the students rallied to help one another during some technical hiccups experienced early in the Shell Eco-Marathon diesel competition.
“We had some problems with our diesel vehicle early on, and what happened was our rear wheel broke, and we had to kind of sacrifice our gas vehicle on its second day of competition to get the diesel vehicle to run,” Coblentz said. “So those things make you more proud almost than the results do, because the gas team would probably have done even better on its second day of competition if they hadn’t agreed to help out the diesel team. So that part was probably the best part of it for me, even more so than the final scores.”